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Pistorius hopes for parole as panel reviews case

18 september 2015, 16:52
0
South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius attending his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. ©AFP
South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius attending his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. ©AFP

A South Africa parole board was meeting Friday to determine if champion Paralympian Oscar Pistorius should leave jail, weeks after the justice minister blocked his release, AFP reports.

Pistorius was due to leave prison in August to serve under house arrest the remainder of his five-year sentence for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

But he was kept behind bars after Justice Minister Michael Masutha made a last minute intervention blocking his release, in the latest twist to the case that has grabbed global headlines. 

Last year, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide for shooting his model girlfriend Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

The star athlete known as the "Blade Runner" argued that he shot the law graduate after mistaking her for an intruder; prosecutors said he did so deliberately.

The 28-year-old was expected to be freed in August and placed under house arrest after serving 10 months of his sentence.

But in a surprise move, justice minister Masutha said that the parole board made a mistake when they approved parole before Pistorius had served a sixth of his five-year sentence, as required by law.

Now a parole review board, a panel of legal experts chaired by a judge, will meet in the eastern port city of Durban to determine if the earlier decision to release Pistorius was legal.

If the panel decides Pistorius should be released from prison, the athlete might be able to leave jail immediately, said his lawyer Brian Webber to AFP.

"That could be the case," said Webber, adding that he can’t be sure. "I’m not a bookkeeper."

Alternatively, the panel can rule that Pistorius must remain in prison.

The parole review board has no set time limit to make its decision, said lawyer Joey Moses, author of the book Parole in South Africa.

The parole review comes just months before Pistorius is set to fight the state’s appeal to have him found guilty of murder instead of the less serious charge of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

In November, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear his case in Bloemfontein and determine if Judge Thokozile Masipa erred when she ruled that Pistorius did not intentionally kill model and law graduate Steenkamp.

Should Pistorius be found guilty of murder, he would serve a minimum of 15 years in prison, ruling out a return to the professional world of athletics where he was once revered as a role model.


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