15 August 2014

South Africa: Dewani Fit to Stand Trial

Cape Town — British businessman Shrien Dewani has been found fit to stand trial for the murder of his wife Anni, according to a mental health report released in the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

"The accused is not mentally ill. The accused is not certifiable in terms of the Mental Health Act," Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock said.

Dewani's lawyer Francois van Zyl said the mental health panel made a unanimous decision, including Professor Tuviah Zabow, who was appointed by the court as Dewani's psychiatrist.

"We are in agreement. There is no objection," Van Zyl said.

The report, compiled on Monday, was handed up.

Dewani would go on trial on October 6. He would appear in court again on September 9 for a formal pre-trial hearing.

He would remain at Valkenberg Hospital for counselling and detention leading up to and for the duration of the trial, after a recommendation by medical superintendent Professor Sean Kaliski.

Kaliski advised that this was a better option than prison because of Dewani's history and progress.

De Kock said this was also in keeping with assurances given to the United Kingdom that they would "implement measures to safeguard his health".

Dewani appeared before Judge President John Hlophe, supported by his parents and siblings.

Despite the permanent furrows in his brow, he appeared relatively calm and sat during proceedings.

De Kock had brought an application for Dewani's mental health to be officially observed in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

At the time, he said observation was necessary as the mental health report prepared by Valkenberg psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann differed in its opinion to that of Zabow.

With Dewani fit to stand trial, De Kock officially excused himself from the case and said Adrian Mopp would be leading the case for the State.

"So Mr Mopp is going to mop the trial. Very interesting," quipped Hlophe.

The judge then excused Dewani, who replied "Thank you my Lord", before being led down to the holding cells.

According to the indictment previously handed to the Western Cape High Court, he is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice.

It is the State's case that he acted in common purpose and conspired with Cape Town residents Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, and Xolile Mngeni to kill his wife.

In return, the State alleges that Dewani would provide payment to the perpetrators.

Tongo, Qwabe, and Mngeni are already serving jail terms in connection with the murder.

Dewani has not yet been asked to plead.

Dewani claimed that he and his wife Anni were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through Gugulethu in Cape Town in a taxi in November 2010.

The couple had been on honeymoon in the country. He was released unharmed, but his wife's body was found in the abandoned car the next day. She had been shot dead.

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