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CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A South African court acquitted British businessman Shrien Dewani on Monday of charges that he paid hitmen to kill his wife while they honeymooned in Cape Town four years ago. South African prosecutors had argued Dewani paid 15,000 rand ($1,300) in a plot with taxi driver Zola Tongo and others to kidnap and murder his wife, Anni, in November 2010 — charges he has consistently denied.

Three South Africans, who had implicated Dewani as part of plea bargains for reduced sentences, are serving lengthy jail terms for her murder. Dewani's defense team asked the court last month to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence and contradictions from key witnesses.

"The application is granted. The accused is found not guilty on this charge," said Judge Jeanette Traverso, having earlier questioned the reliability of the state's witnesses. A stony-faced Dewani - who lost a three-year legal battle in Britain to avoid being extradited to and tried in South Africa - stood up and walked down the courtroom stairs toward the holding cells after the ruling. He is expected to be released and could fly home to Britain later on Monday.

Anni Dewani's family said they were "deeply disappointed" with the judge's decision, especially because Shrien never had to take the stand to give his version of events. "Today we feel as a family that the justice system has failed us," Anni's sister, Ami Denborg, told reporters outside the courtroom as family members wept.


- Reuters