JOHANNESBURG — A British man accused of arranging the killing of his wife on their honeymoon was charged with murder in South Africa on Tuesday, hours after arriving from Britain following a lost battle to avoid extradition.
Shrien Dewani landed at Cape Town’s international airport in a plane chartered by South Africa’s justice ministry because of concerns about security and adequate monitoring of his medical condition if he had taken a commercial flight, the ministry said in a statement. The government “did not want to take chances” with Dewani’s transfer because of “undisputed evidence” during his extradition hearing that he had shown suicidal tendencies, according to the ministry.
Lawyers for the 34-year-old businessman say he suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression and is unfit to stand trial. He arrived in South Africa with an escort consisting of a doctor, a nurse and officials from Interpol and the South African police, the government said.
Dewani’s 28-year-old bride, Anni, was found shot dead in an abandoned taxi in a poor area of Cape Town in November 2010. Dewani, who denies wrongdoing, is accused of hiring men to kill his wife and make it look like a botched carjacking during what he said was a township tour. Three men, including the cab’s driver and a gunman, have been convicted for the murder.
Dewani was taken in a police convoy soon after his arrival in South Africa to the Western Cape High Court. He was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and defeating the ends of justice and his case was postponed to May 12, pending a medical examination to determine whether he would be able to stand trial, the South African police said in a statement.
“We wish Dewani well as far as his health is concerned, in order for him to be able to tell his side of the story. Our investigating team is ready to resume with the trial,” Lt. Anwa Dramat, head of a police investigative unit called the Hawks, said in a statement.
Dewani will be held at the Valkenberg psychiatric hospital in Cape Town, the South African Press Association reported.
The Briton, who had grey streaks in his hair, looked straight ahead during his court appearance, the news agency reported. He was represented by prominent lawyer Francois van Zyl. Some of his relatives attended the hearing. Members of the women’s league of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, gathered at the courthouse to condemn violence against women and show support for the family of Anni Dewani.
South African authorities had allowed Dewani to leave for Britain after his wife’s killing. He was later arrested there, setting the stage for a legal battle over extradition that lasted years. Britain’s High Court last month rejected all his grounds for appeal.