SA Judge in Brit-Indian honeymooner's trial dodged by controversy

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Cape Town, Jan 2 (ANI): The family members of Shrien Dewani, the Brit-Indian millionaire accused of conspiring to have his wife killed during their honeymoon in Cape Town, have expressed fears that he would not receive a fair trial in South Africa after it emerged that the judge presiding over the case has been dogged by misconduct allegations.

In 2007, Judge John Hlophe's behaviour was branded 'unacceptable' by the Judicial Services Commission, South Africa's legal watchdog, which investigated payments he had received from an asset management company without declaring them.

Judge Hlophe went on to give the company legal permission to sue a fellow judge for libel. However, the Commission decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a formal public hearing into gross misconduct.

The judge insisted he had 'oral consent' to receive the payments from a justice minister who had subsequently died. In August 2009, the JSC dropped its investigation into the complaint against him made by the Constitutional Court.

In the wake of the controversial revelation about the judge, Dewani's cousin Akta Raja expressed deep concern about his role in the investigation into Anni Dewani's murder case.

"Your fears deepen when you hear that Judge John Hlophe, who sentenced your driver and who may preside over any trial, is a controversial figure. Are you sure you will be treated fairly?" The Telegraph quoted Raja, as saying.

Thirty-one-year-old Dewani, who is currently out on bail, is due to appear in a British court for a preliminary extradition hearing on January 20.

His lawyers will argue that there is no proper evidence against him and that his case will be prejudiced in South Africa, where trials are conducted by a judge without a jury, the paper said.

Britain's controversial extradition laws, brought in by the Labour Government in 2003, are currently under review amid growing fears that they give little protection to British citizens who face politically motivated trials abroad.

The South Africa's Department of Justice would reportedly submit a formal extradition request in the coming days.

A spokesman for South Africa's specialist crime unit dismissed claims that the case against Dewani is 'flimsy' and insisted that he would receive a fair trial in that country. (ANI)

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