LONDON — A British businessman accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife during their Cape Town honeymoon is too mentally fragile to be extradited to South Africa, the U.K.'s High Court ruled Friday.
Two justices said it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Shrien Dewani, 32, who is accused of arranging the murder of his 28-year-old wife, Anni. She was found shot dead in an abandoned taxi in Cape Town's deprived Gugulethu township in November 2010.
Shrien Dewani's lawyers say he has severe depression and post-traumatic stress and is too sick to stand trial.
The judges said Dewani's mental condition had worsened since his arrest in December 2010, and he should not be extradited in his current state. But they said it was likely Dewani would recover "within a reasonable time" and could then be sent to South Africa.
Dewani, who is being treated in a psychiatric hospital, was not in court. He denies involvement in his wife's death, claiming the couple's vehicle was attacked by gunmen during a township tour.
A taxi driver, Zola Tongo, has been convicted of murder and says Shrien Dewani offered him 15,000 rand (about $2,100) to arrange the killing and make it look like a carjacking.
British Home Secretary Theresa May approved Dewani's extradition in September after a district judge ruled he should be sent to South Africa to stand trial. Dewani appealed the ruling to the High Court, which suspended the extradition, but indicated the reprieve was only temporary.
The judges rejected an argument by Dewani's lawyers that he was at risk of sexual violence if imprisoned in South Africa.
Justice John Thomas said Dewani's mental illnesses meant "that extradition would present a real and significant risk to the life of the appellant."
But he added that "his mental illness apart, it is plainly in the interests of justice that the appellant be tried in South Africa as soon as he is fit to be tried."
Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said South Africa would not appeal Friday's ruling.
"There is an order from the court that he is extraditable," Mhaga said, adding the only question is when Dewani would be deemed well enough for the order to be carried out.
"We are willing to wait," Mhaga said.Comment on this story
Dewani's family said in a statement that it was grateful for the court's decision, and that the accused hoped to clear his name once he had recovered.
"Shrien is innocent and is determined to return to South Africa to clear his name and seek justice for his wife Anni," the family said.
Anni Dewani's family said it looked forward to the day her accused killer was fit to be extradited.
"We just want him to get better now so he can finally go to South Africa and tell us what happened," said Anni Dewani's sister, Ami Denborg. "We just want to know the truth."
Associated Press writer Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.