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Make-or-break for Dewani

2014-08-15 05:00

Cape Town – Murder accused Shrien Dewani will return to court for another pre-trial hearing on Friday to see whether he is mentally fit to stand trial or not, according to reports.

Cape Judge President John Hlophe will make the ruling at the Western Cape High Court following an assessment on Dewani’s mental health compiled by a panel of experts, Eyewitness News reported.

Dewani’s ability to stand trial on 6 October will be decided by Hlophe, EWN said.

According to media reports there have been conflicting diagnoses of his mental state.

In June Hlophe ruled that Dewani be sent for mental observation after director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock brought an application for Dewani's mental health to be officially observed in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

De Kock said observation was necessary as the mental health report prepared by Valkenberg psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann differed in its opinion to that of Professor Tuviah Zabow, acting on behalf of Dewani.

Both reports, compiled on 3 June, were handed up to Hlophe.

"In view of the history of this matter and the current conflict regarding the question whether the accused suffers from a mental illness and its potential impact on his fitness to stand trial, the State is of the view that the matter must be resolved definitively," he said.

Dewani, who is accused of planning the killing of his bride, Anni, in a staged hijacking while on honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010, was extradited from Britain in April after losing a three-year battle to avoid trial in South Africa.

Since his arrival, he has been treated at a state psychiatric hospital for post-traumatic stress and depression related to the killing of his Swedish wife.

The 34-year-old was implicated in his wife's death by three co-accused who agreed to testify for the State in exchange for lesser sentences.

He has denied any involvement in the killing.

Since much of Dewani's extradition fight centred on his mental health, the court ordered that he be assessed by a panel of experts over 30 days so that the question of his fitness to stand trial could be resolved definitively.

After Dewani’s last court appearance in June defence lawyer Francois van Zyl expressed confidence that he would be ready for trial in October.

During an interview with eNCA, Anni’s uncle Ashok Hindocha spoke out about Dewani’s mental health for the first time.

According to eNCA, Hindocha wished Dewani well and urged him to tell them what happened.

Anni’s uncle said his family was not aware of the murder accused having a psychological history, adding that majority of his family would be in Cape Town when Dewani goes on trial.

If found guilty Dewani faces a minimum of 25 years of the five charges he faces.

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