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Dewani could sue state for defamation

Prosecutors could be prosecuted for unnecessarily scrutinising his private sex life in open court.

A screengrab from a television broadcast shows Judge Jeanette Traverso while reading out her finding on the application to have Shrien Dewani discharged and acquitted on 8 December 2014. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - South African prosecutors are facing widespread criticism in the United Kingdom over their handling of the Shrien Dewani murder trial.

Dewani was today acquitted of orchestrating his wife Anni's killing during the couple's Cape Town honeymoon in November 2010.

Prosecutors believed the British businessman had hired hitmen to stage a hijacking in which his wife was killed while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Judge Jeanette Traverso found the state provided no credible evidence to convict Dewani and granted an application to discharge.

She ruled there was no evidence with which a reasonable court could convict the British businessman for the 2010 killing of his wife.

"In the circumstances I make the following order, the application in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act is granted, the accused is found not guilty and discharged."

Traverso said she is aware of strong public opinion that Dewani should present his case to the court.

"I have however taken an oath of office to uphold the rule of law and to administer justice without fear, favour or prejudice. That I cannot do if I permit public opinion to influence my application of the law."

Media and legal observers claim the investigation and prosecution of the British businessman was flawed and have also raised serious questions about South Africa's legal system.

Haphazard, shoddy and incompetent are among the scathing comments from the UK following the sensational acquittal of Dewani.

Analysis of his trial has highlighted incomplete witness statements and what has been described as inadequate ballistics investigations.

The testimony of star witness Zola Tongo was branded by British media as "hopeless".

Criticism of the prosecution's case comes as speculation grows that Dewani could leave South Africa and return to the UK as soon as tomorrow.

PROSECUTION COULD FACE LEGAL ACTION

With huge British media interested in the failed legal case, it's now reported that South African prosecutors could face legal action for defaming the Briton by unnecessarily scrutinising his private sex life in open court.

In his court statement, Dewani admitted to his bisexuality, saying his sexual interactions with men were mostly physical encounters or email chats, including interactions with a male prostitute.

Legal experts now say the prosecution's case could be scrutinised to see if it unjustifiably abused the British businessman's sexuality as evidence.

Any action against prosecutors could rest on whether they made defamatory statements that were not relevant to court proceedings.

MIXED REACTION TO RULING

There's been both relief and outrage to the decision, with legal minds saying it was the only logical option while her family says the South African justice system has failed them.

Anni's devastated relatives say they came to South Africa looking for answers about her murder but are leaving with more questions.

Surrounded by journalists and flashing cameras, Anni's sister Ami Denborg said the justice system had failed them.

Anni's uncle Ashok Hindocha says the family was surprised that the case was thrown out of the Western Cape High Court today.

"We had four years of torture. We were promised we would get the truth from South Africa but we got nothing out of it. All we found out was his bisexuality."

He said although he is disappointed with Traverso's ruling, he can't blame anyone.

"We are just frustrated that she could throw out the case without hearing it. Shrien Dewani was not given a chance to be cross-examined, yet he was believed."

Hindocha believes Dewani should have taken the stand like the other men accused of Anni's murder.

"All he [Dewani] said in court was through his paid lawyers."

Before ruling on Dewani's acquittal, Traverso acknowledged that there were unanswered questions in this case but said there was no evidence on which a reasonable man could convict the accused.

"I have heard the plight of the Hindocha family that they would like answers."

Traverso said the evidence of three state witnesses, who were all involved in the crime, had been peppered with contradictions.

She said she believes they are intelligent men, more than capable of twisting their versions to implicate the accused.

Traverso explained that while they were amateurs, she doesn't believe any of them would have been so stupid as to commit the crime for a few thousand rand.

At the same time, top legal minds have backed the decision to acquit, saying the lack of credible evidence left Traverso no other choice.

Lawyer, Cliff Alexander said, "The three main witnesses who testifie were terrible witnesses- it's absolutely shocking. There is no way I believe Traverso could have put Dewani on his defence given the deficiencies and inefficiencies."

Criminal defence lawyer William Booth said he's not surprised by today's judgment.

"Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act is pretty much the state's case is of a poor quality based on unreliable and contradictory evidence."

LISTEN: _ Criminal Law expert, Professor James Grant on what this ruling may mean for the National Prosecuting Authority's credibility. _

People who have followed the case religiously believe the judge made the wrong decision.

One woman outside court said, "I am very heart sore, I am heartbroken and very disappointed in our justice system."

While a man said, "If it was me and you, we would have been locked up today."

"The evidence and the way that we handled the case, that is very bad. I think the justice system failed Anni," said another woman.

Dewani's trial is the second high-profile case this year to turn the spotlight on South Africa's judicial system and high murder rate.

A Pretoria high court in October sentenced Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius to five years in jail for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Dewani was extradited to South Africa in April following the conviction of three South African men for their roles in Anni's death.

For more on the trial and Shrien Dewani, click here.

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