By Michael Trapido ;
The extradition hearing of Shrien Dewani, being brought by South African authorities in the British High Court later this week, would appear to have accelerated the pace of claim and counter- claim by those supporting the Bristol businessman and those who would see him tried for murder.
Shrien is supported by his loyal family and friends, his legal team, those who believe he is innocent and famous publicist Max Clifford.
The South African authorities have the backing of those who either believe that he is guilty or would like to see him answer the questions that have puzzled them since Anni Dewani was murdered.
If the extradition application is turned down then unless Shrien Dewani moves to another country the trial will be taking place without him.
If it succeeds then he will, in all likelihood, be spending the duration of the trial and the lead up to it in custody.
This does not factor in appeals or reviews which I have dealt with before.
What it demonstrates is that for both sides the stakes are high.
Earlier this week the message from Shrien’s family was that subject to a deal being concluded on matters such as bail, Dewani would come to South Africa without the necessity of an opposed application.
This may have been a hedge against the terrible downside of losing the application which means he might be spending months in jail.
What the reaction to that offer has been â€“ if any â€“ is unknown to us at this stage.
However as a further hedge Eyewitness News confirmed today that Shrien has contacted a well-known Cape Town criminal lawyer. They say that a relative of Shrien Dewani apparently called the lawyer recently.
South Africa have in the meanwhile been sending over senior members of the SAPS as well as linking with their British counterparts in order to ensure that they put together what they say is a watertight case.
More importantly today Police Chief General Bheki Cele was quoted as saying that the motive â€“ which has eluded everyone so far â€“ will be revealed at the hearing on Thursday.
Prior to this authorities have referred to CCTV evidence, forensic evidence from the car, the claims by 4 accused/witnesses (2 of whom are alleging torture) and the post mortem without giving a motive.
The application to bring Shrien back for murder was however sparked primarily by the version given by taxi driver Zola Tongo during his plea and sentence agreement.
It implicated Shrien Dewani as the mastermind of a simulated hijacking whose sole purpose was the murder of Anni on her honeymoon in South Africa.
Of course unless there is highly compelling evidence in support of it, the submission of what is Shrien’s motive can only – at this stage – be the prosecution’s theory of what they believe is the case.
Shrien meanwhile has vehemently denied the accusations made against him.
Timing Of Knowledge of Motive
The question that has to be asked in this game of thrust and counter-thrust is why now?
Shrien says he’ll come if he can have bail, the SA authorities say that they are on the verge of building a watertight case and on Thursday everyone gets to hear the motive.
Why not just disclose the motive on Thursday?
There are 2 possible answers :
Either the prosecution are not interested in Shrien’s offer â€“ he effectively refused to return and they feel bail will not be given but fought over – or they are pressurising him to co-operate and meet the terms that they are prepared to look at.
What is clear is that once the court has ruled the side who goes down has very little â€“ probably no â€“ bargaining power whatsoever.
That might be why we are seeing these lightening chess moves as each tries to gain some advantage over the other at the bargaining table should neither party wish to play Russian Roulette and go to court.
As any lawyer will tell you a bad settlement is better than a good case. In court anything can and does happen.
The bottom line is that over the next 2 days the overall position should become a lot clearer.