Lawyer laughs off Dewani funding claims

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iol news 12 may SA PN dewani pic AP Xolile Mngeni is accused of taking part in the killing of Swedish woman Anni Dewani. File photo: AP

Cape Town - The private lawyer of a man on trial for Anni Dewani's murder laughed off a rumour on Thursday that he was being funded by the family of her husband Shrien.

“No, no, no. I wouldn't have accepted (if that was the case),” he said outside the Western Cape High Court, at the end of the sixth day of Xolile Mngeni's trial.

“We have private funders, people who have interest in the matter. We have been approached by human rights guys and we have noted as well that there are human rights issues,” he said.

“So it's partly privately funded, (partly) pro-bono.”

Mngeni has been found fit to stand trial despite having a malignant brain tumour.

He was allegedly the man who shot Anni Dewani while she and Shrien were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Her husband has been accused of masterminding his wife's murder and of making it look like a hijacking, but he has repeatedly denied the allegations. He is being treated in the United Kingdom for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the end of July, his lawyer Claire Montgomery told the Westminster Magistrate's Court that keeping her client under medical treatment in the UK for 12 months would speed up his recovery. This would be jeopardised if he was instead sent to South Africa.

The British Press Association reported that the hearing was adjourned to September 18 for a psychiatrist to examine Dewani and to give the court more information about his condition.

Mngeni has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

At the end of last year, he elected to use a private lawyer instead of the Legal Aid lawyer who had been representing him in the Wynberg Regional Court.

His family was said to be in financial difficulties, which raised the question of where the money was coming from for his legal fees.

His trial resumes on Monday. - Sapa

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