Top Cape Town lawyer Taswell Papier has been engaged to assist the legal team of honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani.
Papier has previously been honoured as a Western Cape “hero” by then-premier Ebrahim Rasool and has been named the global lawyer of the year in 2006.
When the Cape Times contacted his office on Wednesday, he had already left the country and could not be reached for comment.
Although Dewani’s much anticipated extradition trial gets under way in London this morning it is expected to last no longer than a few minutes.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga explained that in extradition trials much of the proceedings take place in chambers, with parties expected to meet at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court to pore over the voluminous request by South African authorities for Dewani to face charges of allegedly orchestrating the murder of his wife Anni.
Although the NPA is prepared for the hearing to continue for at least two days, those involved in the legal action say they expect proceedings to last “no longer than 15 minutes”.
Once the NPA has presented its application and supporting documents, Dewani’s camp can be afforded up to two months to respond.
A massive British media contingent and members of the South African public are still hoping that national police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s threat that the much-debated motive for the alleged hit may be revealed in court today.
“We’ll be having this hearing and if it needs to come out there it will be fine,” said Cele on e.tv on Tuesday evening.
In the run-up to the trial the two camps have each fired shots, with the Dewani camp offering to forego the extradition hearing if the South African legal authorities could guarantee the care home millionaire bail until all appeals during the legal proceedings had been exhausted.
Cele, in keeping with the NPA’s assurance that it is building a “watertight” case against Dewani, fired back by saying that police had uncovered the alleged motive behind the murder.
Thus far the request for Dewani’s extradition has been through the UK Secretary of State who has sent the request to Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London, which deals with extradition requests.
Although Dewani is expected to have numerous family members and his celebrity publicist Max Clifford present at the hearing, Anni’s family have largely decided to stay away, with only her uncle, Ashok Hindocha, there to represent the family.
Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, has repeatedly pleaded with Dewani to return to South Africa to draw an end to the saga which started on November 13 last year with the apparent hijacking and the killing of 28-year-old Anni in Gugulethu.
Thus far police have put forward the confession of taxi driver Zola Tongo, who told the court he was paid R15 000 by Dewani to set up a fake hijacking which would see Anni killed. Police are apparently in possession of video footage allegedly showing Dewani handing over money to Tongo.
Despite the apparent lack of firm evidence revealed thus far, South Africa is one of 24 countries that do not need to present prima facie evidence (evidence deemed sufficient to raise a presumption of fact) to effect an extradition.
Should Dewani lose his battle against extradition in the Westminster court, the matter will be sent to the Secretary of State who will decide if all the prerequisites have been met. Dewani will then have two weeks to appeal the decision in the high court and, failing this, the House of Lords. The law governing extradition allows for an indefinite timeframe for the completion of the extradition request, depending on the complexities of the matter.
Papier - who defended Sir Alex Ferguson when he was accused of sexually assaulting a city woman - is one of the strongest players in Dewani’s corner.
He was also part of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers delegation in 1990 and played a major role in the indemnity process of political prisoners on Robben Island. - Cape Times