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Dewani 'keen to prove innocence'

Honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani "remains committed to proving his innocence", his family said today, as he was sent to a psychiatric hospital after a brief court appearance.

The 34-year-old was brought to Western Cape High Court in Cape Town in a police convoy this morning after he was extradited from the UK last night at the end of a long legal battle.

Dressed in a dark suit and with greying hair he attended court for a short hearing and will now be held at Valkenburg psychiatric hospital until his next appearance on May 12.

South African officials stressed that the emphasis will be on ensuring his recovery from mental illness so that he is well enough to stand trial later in the year.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said: "While he's in the care of his doctors, they will be able to give us more information in terms of his health and we will be able to make a decision going forward from there."

His wife Anni Dewani, 28, died when she was shot in the neck as the couple travelled in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.

Millionaire businessman Dewani is accused of paying three men to kill her during the couple's honeymoon, which he denies.

He is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice.

The Dewani family said in a statement: "Shrien remains committed to proving his innocence in a court of law and uncovering the truth behind his wife's murder.

"The extradition process has resulted in a number of assurances being provided by the South African authorities in relation to his continued hospital treatment.

"We are grateful to the South African authorities for these assurances. Shrien's family and his legal team have every confidence in the South African judicial system.

"We look forward to his health improving, his name being cleared and there being an end to this legal trauma for all involved.

"We recognise the widespread public interest in this case but respect the proper place for its resolution to be the South African courts."

The South African government has agreed with the UK that if a trial has not started within 18 months, Dewani will be returned to Britain.

He was flown from Bristol Airport to Cape Town in a private jet last night due to concerns on the part of the South African authorities about his "suicidal tendencies" and excessive media attention.

Three men have been convicted and jailed over Mrs Dewani's death, including taxi driver Zola Tongo, who was given 18 years after admitting his role in the killing.

Xolile Mngeni, who prosecutors claim was the hitman, was convicted of premeditated murder over the shooting, and another accomplice, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, pleaded guilty to murder and was handed a 25-year prison sentence.

Dewani's lawyers had argued that he should not be forced from the UK to face trial until he had recovered from mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But last month judges at the High Court rejected all his grounds for appeal against removal and denied him the chance to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Mrs Dewani's uncle, Ashok Hindocha, said the protracted legal battle had been "very heavy" for the family, who have not seen Dewani since his niece's funeral.

He said: "At the beginning, we thought this was a very simple case. That was until Shrien became a suspect.

"Five people were in that car - four men and one woman. Three of the men are in jail, one girl was shot in the neck. One person hasn't answered the questions about what happened in the car."

It is understood that, if he is found fit to do so, Dewani could stand trial in September.


From Belfast Telegraph