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Johannesburg - A British High Court ruling on Friday that honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani can be extradited to South Africa was welcomed by the justice department.
“The Republic of South Africa (RSA) initiated the extradition application in January 2011 and has consistently expressed its desire to have Mr Dewani returned to stand trial,” spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said in a statement.
“That desire has not abated and the RSA will obviously do everything in its power to ensure compliance with the High Court's judgment.”
Dewani stands accused of ordering the killing of his wife Anni, 28, who was shot as the couple travelled in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.
He has been fighting extradition to South Africa to stand trial until he has recovered from mental health problems, said to include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Earlier, the Press Association reported that the British court was asked to consider two legal issues. The first was whether a person, who was not at present fit to plead, could be legally regarded as “an accused”, if being extradited in circumstances where he might remain unfit to plead. On this point, the court dismissed Dewani's application, finding him to be an accused to be extradited for the purpose of prosecution.
The second legal issue was whether it was unjust or oppressive to extradite a person who was determined unfit to plead, whatever the prognosis. On this point the court found that Dewani's extradition would be acceptable provided South Africa agreed to return him to the UK if he was found unfit to stand trial.
Mhaga said South Africa had until February 14 to indicate its intention to provide this undertaking, and an authenticated copy of the undertaking needed to be received by the court by February 21.
“The High Court ruling sets out in clear terms the conditions upon which it is prepared to sanction Mr Dewani's return to the RSA to stand trial.
“The RSA, including the National Prosecuting Authority, will study the judgment and liaise with the necessary stakeholders to ensure that it complies with the directive of the court,” he said.
The British High Court held that the interests of justice required promptness and that there should be no further delay, on the proviso that Dewani was afforded proper protection.
Mhaga said Dewani still had the option to request the High Court's leave to appeal to the British Supreme Court on the two legal issues, and that he needed to do so within 14 days.
He could also appeal to the European Court for Human Rights.
Three South African men have already been sentenced for their roles in Anni Dewani's murder.
Xolile Mngeni was sentenced to life imprisonment, 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and to five years for possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, to run concurrently with his life term.
Zola Tongo and Mziwamadoda Qwabe are serving 18 years and 25
years respectively for their roles in the crime, under a plea and sentencing agreement.