London - The South African government confirmed on Friday that it would give an undertaking on how long honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani would be kept in the country.
Dewani has come a significant step closer to removal from Britain to South Africa to face charges of organising the killing of his wife.
The Press Association reported that the South African government paved the way for imminent extradition by confirming it would give an undertaking on how long Dewani would be kept in the country without trial if he continued to suffer mental health problems.
The confirmation looks set to bring to an end a three-year legal battle to block his removal, although there remains the possibility of a last-ditch appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
A panel of High Court judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, ruled last month that it would not be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite Dewani, despite his illness, if an undertaking was given by South African authorities.
A Judicial Office spokeswoman said on Friday: “The court has received a letter from the South African government stating that they will be providing an undertaking which will be with the court on 21 February as directed in the judgment.”
Dewani, 33, from Bristol, has been fighting removal from the UK to face proceedings over his wife Anni's death until he has recovered from mental health problems, including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
His lawyers have said at various hearings that he will be willing to defend himself at trial once he is fit to do so, but they say he is unfit to plead under English law and his “prognosis is not certain”.
Dewani, who is compulsorily detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, is accused of ordering the killing of his new wife Anni, 28, on their honeymoon.
The pair were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through the Gugulethu township in Cape Town in a taxi in November 2010. Dewani was released unharmed.
The next day the body of Mrs Dewani was found in the car. She had injuries to her head and chest.
South African Xolile Mngeni was later convicted of premeditated murder and jailed for life. Prosecutors allege he was hired by Dewani to kill his wife.
Dewani has always denied the accusation and has been fighting efforts to secure his extradition since it was first ordered by a senior district judge in 2011.