Shrien Dewani Trial Begins


The trial for British businessman, Shrien Dewani, who stands accused of masterminding his wife’s murder during their honeymoon in 2010, is set to finally start on Monday in Cape Town.

This is after a panel of experts found Dewani fit to stand trial in August.

However, while local and international media are expected to pack the benches of the Western Cape High Court, when the trial begins with Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso presiding, the actual trial might not be broadcast on tv as did the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Both director of public prosecutions Rodney de Kock and Dewani's lawyer Francois van Zyl made it clear, in letters to Judge Traverso on Thursday, that they did not wish the same for this trial.

They had agreed that it was not in the interests of justice for the entire trial to be recorded electronically or broadcast ater they were approached by Electronic Media Network, the broadcaster of Carte Blanche, for permission to record and broadcast the entire trial.

According to a letter from legal firm ENSafrica their client was vulnerable and could suffer a relapse. The firm recommended that the regime of not taking photos or broadcasting proceedings should remain in place for this reason. Additionally, they did not wish to jeopardise the credibility of certain witnesses.

Subsequent to the judge's permission, they were prepared to allow the closing arguments and judgment to be recorded and broadcast live.

Regarding photography, Dewani's lawyers believed a jostle of photographers could trigger a relapse. They proposed a once-off chance of 15 minutes on Monday for photos and video to be taken 2m away from their client.

It was proposed that photographers be let into the court two at a time under the observation of the court orderlies and police

On Friday, the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said it was not happy with this.

"We find this arrangement unacceptable and a violation of our rights. It also negates progress done in the Pistorius case," said Sanef deputy chair Makhudu Sefara.

"We are doing our best to remedy the situation, but it might eventually require companies to send in their lawyers."

He said Sanef had conducted tough and lengthy negotiations with the justice department and others to secure media arrangements.

Local media were allocated 22 seats inside court, a "major victory" from the initial allocation of 10 seats.

Sanef and members of the Foreign Correspondents Association were to be allocated 17 seats each.

Photo caption: FINALLY ON TRIAL... British businessman and the alleged mastermind of his wife’s murder, Shrien Dewani, will stand trial starting Monday at the Western Cape High Court.

The suggestion to have an overflow courtroom was turned down by the judge, he said.

"It is important to note that the final arrangement, though better than the initial one, is, in our view, not ideal. Sanef is thus still working hard behind the scenes with the hope that authorities will relent on the idea of an overflow room which, in our view, is the best solution to this challenge.