Shrien Dewani 'too ill' to stay at extradition hearing

Shrien Dewani arrives for an extradition hearing

A judge has ruled that Shrien Dewani is too ill to attend his extradition hearing over allegations he ordered his wife's murder while on honeymoon.

South African authorities want the 31-year-old to return to Cape Town, where his wife Anni was killed in November.

The couple were being driven through a township when their taxi was hijacked.

Mr Dewani, from Bristol, appeared briefly at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court before being granted bail. The hearing was adjourned to Tuesday morning.

'Fragile' heath

The care home owner is said to be suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and has been detained at a Bristol clinic while the hearing continues.

South African prosecutors say Mr Dewani, who was thrown out of the taxi while his wife was driven off and killed, had arranged the murder.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo, who has admitted his part in the crime, claimed in a plea agreement with prosecutors that Mr Dewani, who denies any wrongdoing, ordered the car-jacking.

In the extradition hearing, the judge heard evidence from Mr Dewani's barrister, Clare Montgomery QC, who told the court his mental health was "extremely frail" and that it was "positively inhuman" to keep him in the court room.

The judge agreed that his mental health was "fragile", but added it was with "considerable hesitation" that he excused Mr Dewani from court proceedings.

Expert witness, Judge Deon van Zyl, South Africa's inspecting judge of prisons, was repeatedly asked about gangs in prisons in South Africa by Mr Dewani's legal team.

'Total exaggeration'

Mr Dewani's supporters have questioned whether he would receive a fair trial in the country.

In extradition proceedings that began at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south east London in May, his lawyers argued that he may not be safe if held in a South African jail.

Judge van Zyl said much of the research quoted was a "total exaggeration" and said she was "not aware of a gang being in control of any single prison".

Relatives of 28-year-old Anni, including her parents, Vinod and Nilam Hindocha, watched proceedings from the public gallery.

The hearing in May was adjourned while a psychiatric report on his health was completed.

The court is expected to hear another four days of evidence this week before district judge Howard Riddle decides whether Dewani should be sent to South Africa to face trial.

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