London - National police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s comments that Shrien Dewani was a murdering “monkey” were put under the spotlight again during his extradition hearing in London.
Dewani’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery QC, told the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday that Cele’s statement had prejudiced her client as it had imputed guilt on him.
She said Cele’s statement was designed to put pressure on Dewani, 31, to return to South Africa. It had had an effect on the case against him in South Africa.
“People still call Mr Dewani a monkey and ape months after (the statement) which only serves to denigrate him,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery, who was submitting her closing arguments, told the court that extraditing Dewani in his current mental state would be “oppressive, harsh and unfair”.
She said the fact that three psychiatrists had testified this week that Dewani was mentally unfit to plead to charges was “ground zero” for the basis for him not to be extradited to South Africa.
In addition to suffering from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Dewani was also at a high risk of suicide, the court heard. “There is no clear prognosis for treatment. The evidence is all one way,” Montgomery said.
“You are bound to pay attention to it,” she said.
Montgomery said even if he stayed in the UK, there was no realistic prospect of Dewani’s staying mentally fit. She said that the South African authorities should bring a fresh extradition application when he was better.
Dewani is accused of masterminding the murder of his wife of two weeks, Anni Hindocha. She was killed while on honeymoon in Cape Town last November.
Montgomery argued that sending Dewani to South Africa would be detrimental to his health.
“It is oppressive by our standards to extradite him. By each of the doctors’ standards he should be in hospital and not on trial,” she said.
Turning briefly towards the Hindocha family seated to her left, Montgomery said: “It is in everyone’s interest that there is a trial, but it must be a trial in which the man is (mentally) fit”.
She admitted that there were cases in which people were ill during their trials and once they were over, they suddenly became better.
“But this is not the case with Mr Dewani. His symptoms of PTSD were caused by the events in South Africa. It is most unlikely that even if there was a trial and an acquittal he will be relieved of the symptoms of PTSD. All the doctors agree, extradition will make him unfit,” she said.
Montgomery took Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle through three case laws where precedents were set regarding fitness to stand trial, saying: “The law is clear: you cannot extradite people who are unfit.”
She said South African law was “materially identical” to British law regarding fitness to stand trial and would reach the same conclusions that it would be oppressive to extradite an unfit man.
Turning towards the facilities available to mentally ill prisoners, Montgomery said South Africa’s prisons were simply incapable of providing the level of care needed for Dewani. In addition to inadequate mental health facilities available, Montgomery said, Dewani also faced being raped and possibly contracting Aids in prison if he was extradited.
She acknowledged that the South African government had promised that Dewani would be kept in a single cell with hot and cold running water and under constant guard in a good prison, but asked if it was sustainable.
“What if Mr Dewani is sentenced to 20 or 30 years in prison? One day, one walk down the wrong corridor, one night unguarded may be enough (for him to be raped),” Montgomery said.
In his closing arguments, the South African government’s lawyer, Hugo Keith QC, said Cele had fully retracted his statement and that the commissioner was in no way directly involved in the case. - Pretoria News