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Honeymoon Murder Accused Dewani Fit for Trial, Lawyer Says

Suspect Shrien Dewani
Suspect Shrien Dewani arrives at Woolwich Crown Court in London on Aug. 10, 2011. Photographer: Nick Obank/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Shrien Dewani will be deemed fit to stand trial in South Africa on charges of murdering his wife Anni during their honeymoon, his lawyer said after a judge ordered the British citizen to undergo psychiatric observation.

Dewani will be returned to Valkenberg hospital in Cape Town, where he has been receiving treatment since April, until his next court appearance on Aug. 15, Judge John Hlophe ordered today. A court-appointed panel of three psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist will conduct the observation to determine whether Dewani is fit to stand trial. The court provisionally set Oct. 6 for the start of case.

“We don’t oppose this application, but I want to state that we have no doubt he will be fit to plead,” Dewani’s lawyer, Francois van Zyl, told the court. “We accept that this is the best way to determine that.”

Dewani says he and Anni were carjacked at gunpoint while traveling in a taxi through Cape Town’s Gugulethu township on Nov. 13, 2010. While the businessman was released unharmed, his wife was found dead on the back seat of the abandoned vehicle the next day with a gunshot wound in her neck. Prosecutors say Dewani arranged the killing, an allegation he denies.

Dewani, who underwent treatment at a U.K. hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after his wife’s death, returned to South Africa to stand trial after losing a three-year legal battle against his extradition.

Mental Condition

In his first court appearance on April 8, Hlophe ordered that he be detained at Valkenberg so doctors could assess his mental condition. On May 12, the court agreed to extend his treatment after Van Zyl said he was not yet well enough to prepare for trial.

Xolile Mngeni admitted to the shooting and was jailed for life in 2012, while accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe, who also pleaded guilty to murder, received a 25-year prison sentence. Taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years for being an accomplice to the crime.

Dewani was charged on April 8 with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice. He was present in court today for the first time since his initial appearance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Brand in Cape Town at rbrand9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Vernon Wessels at vwessels@bloomberg.net Chris Kirkham, Matthew Brown

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