Dewani trial judge faces complaint


Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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A formal complaint has been lodged against the judge presiding over the murder trial of British businessman Shrien Dewani amid allegations of bias.

A group of academics and lawyers in South Africa have criticised Judge Jeanette Traverso’s handling of the case last year, in which she dismissed claims the care home tycoon organised the murder of his wife Anni while on their honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.

The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) accused Judge Traverso of “gross judicial bias and misconduct”. The judge called a halt to the trial in December, two months into the hearing, after an application from Mr Dewani’s counsel that the prosecution case was flawed.

Mr Dewani, 34, fought a long UK court battle against extradition before being cleared of murdering Anni when the Swedish-raised engineer was shot dead as the couple toured a rough suburb of Cape Town on November 13 2010.

HETN chairman Lucky Thekisho said: “Article five of the Judicial Code of Ethics requires judges to act honourably not only in the discharge of official duties but to act honourably and in a manner befitting judicial office in a professional manner that enhances the public trust in or respect for the judiciary and the judicial system.”

Lawyer Mr Thekisho urged South African judicial authorities to suspend Judge Traverso pending an investigation.

In a statement to the Press Association last night, Ashok Hindocha – the victim’s uncle, and one of several members of her family to sit through the trial in Cape Town – said: “We agree that Anni did not get a fair trial.

“The case was not fully heard, she (judge Traverso) should have let Shrien take the stand.”

Three men – Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni – already serving jail terms for their role in the killing claimed Mr Dewani arranged a hijacking-gone wrong in which he would survive and his wife would be killed.

But Judge Traverso ruled their evidence was flawed and the case was thrown out before Mr Dewani could give evidence in the witness box.

The trial was riddled with delays while swathes of evidence were dismissed or considered irrelevant to the case.

German prostitute Leopold Leisser was lined up to testify about bisexual Mr Dewani’s double life, but his court appearance was reduced to little more than a 15-minute offering after the judge decided it contributed little to the evidence already submitted as part of Mr Dewani’s witness statement.

Qwabe struggled to tell the difference between his right and left while a nother star prosecution witness – self-styled middle man Monde Mbolombo – was granted immunity by the state for testifying against the Briton.

Mr Dewani, who had spent eight months undergoing treatment at a hospital on the edge of Cape Town after being extradited to South Africa, was not called to give evidence in his own defence.

He returned to England at the conclusion of the case without ever commenting in public. He has always denied any involvement in his wife’s murder.

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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