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Published: Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 5:55:33 PM
Updated: Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 5:55:33 PM

South African 'honeymoon murder' trial set for October 6

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A South African court on Friday set Oct. 6 as the start date for the trial of British businessman Shrien Dewani, who is accused of planning the murder of his bride in a staged car-jacking while on honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.

Dewani was extradited from Britain in April after losing a three-year battle to avoid trial in South Africa. Since his arrival, he has been treated at a state psychiatric hospital for post-traumatic stress and depression related to the killing of his Swedish wife, Anni.

Pretoria spent millions of rand securing Dewani's return, keen to win a conviction in a case that tarnished South Africa's image soon after it successfully hosted the Soccer World Cup.

A clean-shaven Dewani, wearing a black suit and white shirt, was led down to the holding cells while his family sat close by the dock.

The 34-year-old was implicated in his wife's death by three co-accused who agreed to testify for the state in exchange for lesser sentences. He has denied any involvement in the killing.

Since much of Dewani's extradition fight centred on his mental health, the court ordered that he be assessed by a panel of experts over 30 days so that the question of his fitness to stand trial could be resolved definitively.

"We have no doubt that he is fit to plead," defence lawyer Francois van Zyl said, expressing confidence that Dewani would be ready for trial in October.

Anni Dewani was shot dead in a taxi in November 2010 in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town. Dewani faces a minimum of 25 years if found guilty of the five charges he faces.

(The story was refiled to fix byline)

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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