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Petition for Dewani judge to be dismissed

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A petition was launched on Friday to have the Western Cape High Court judge in British businessman Shrien Dewani’s trial recused because of her “biased conduct”.

The “Justice4Anni” Facebook group, which has almost 23,000 likes, is petitioning Justice Minister Michael Masutha about Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso.

The petition called on Masutha to dismiss her, investigate her conduct during the trial and order a re-trial with a new judge.

The group said a case expert had prepared an interim dossier during the trial and concluded she was biased for a number of reasons.

“She has disallowed key evidence related to the murder charge and motive from being presented and related witnesses testifying,” the petition stated.

It claimed she had been aggressive and blatantly rude to prosecutor Adrian Mopp, while being friendly and assisting towards Dewani’s lawyer Francois van Zyl.

Other reasons included her reliance on Dewani’s plea explanation which had not been tested under cross-examination.

“Her conduct risks an injustice occurring in this case, the bringing of the judiciary into disrepute, it undermines public confidence in the South African judicial system and it impacts the international reputation of the Republic of South Africa in such a high profile murder case.”

The dossier and a verified, hard-copy version of the petition would be handed over in person to Masutha’s office on Thursday.

There were more than 680 signatures on the petition by Friday morning.

Masutha’s spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said he was aware of the petition, but had not seen the Facebook page.

“As and when we receive that petition we will deal with it then, but we can affirm our confidence in our judiciary as they continue to dispense justice in our courts.”

He said either party in the matter could apply for the judge’s recusal and bring evidence to prove the apprehension of impartiality.

Dewani has been on trial since October for allegedly plotting with Zola Tongo and others to kill his wife Anni while they were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping, murder and defeating the ends of justice.

He claims the couple was hijacked while Tongo drove them through Gugulethu in his minibus on Saturday, November 13, 2010.

He was released unharmed and Anni was driven away. She was found shot dead in the abandoned minibus in Khayelitsha the next morning.

The State alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking, for which he paid R15,000.

Dewani maintains that Tongo helped him organise a surprise helicopter trip for Anni for R15,000.

Tongo is serving an 18-year jail term and Mziwamadoda Qwabe a 25-year jail term. Xolile Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour on October 18.

Hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo was granted immunity from prosecution on two charges during Mngeni’s trial, but was warned he faced possible prosecution on various charges if he did not testify truthfully during Dewani’s trial.

The defence team brought an application last week to discharge Dewani of the killing of his wife on the basis that there was no credible evidence.

Traverso is expected to rule next Monday whether Dewani is a free man or whether the trial should continue. SAPA

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