S. Africa's 'Blade Runner' contests bail terms

28th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Lawyers for Oscar Pistorius told a South African court on Thursday that the Paralympic hero, who is charged with murdering his girlfriend, was not a flight risk as they contested stringent bail conditions to enable him to travel abroad.

Pistorius, 26, is challenging a raft of conditions including the confiscation of his passport that he says are unfair and unwarranted.

"Why would this athlete go to a country without extradition and go and hide?" lawyer Barry Roux asked the High Court in Pretoria, saying the bail terms were tantamount to "house arrest".

The double amputee -- who faces trial later this year over the Valentine's Day killing of his model girlfriend Reena Steenkamp -- was not in court for the appeal, which is being opposed by the state.

Earlier this month his lawyers argued that the bail conditions treat Pistorius as a flight risk even though the court had ruled that he was not.

The "Blade Runner", who last year became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics, has cancelled upcoming competitions and has not restarted training, according to his agent Peet Van Zyl.

But Roux said Pistorius wants to be able to go abroad under controlled circumstances if he needs to for income purposes.

"It is not as if the appellant is travelling for holiday in Mauritius; it's only to gain an income, there's no other reason," Roux said.

After being freed on a one million rand ($108,000, 84,000 euros) bail last month, the sprint star was ordered to surrender his passport and told to inform a corrections officer if he wants to travel outside Pretoria.

The lawyers also object to the random mandatory alcohol and drug tests that are part of the bail conditions.

"Of course he was emotional, but does that mean because he is emotional you put him on probational supervision? There's no causal link," Roux said.

The athlete is also banned from returning to his upmarket home in a gated community in Pretoria where he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp in the early hours of February 14.

He claims he mistook her for an intruder -- although the state maintains that the shooting was premeditated murder.

His lawyers want Pistorius to regain access to his home. They are also challenging a condition that says he can have contact with only three people on his housing estate.

"A blanket restriction on speaking to residents is unfair and will infringe the appellant's fair trial rights," they argue in court papers.

They said Pistorius needs to and is entitled to consult with people in the housing complex to put together his own defence.

His next court appearance is scheduled for June 4, but the prosecution said they were not sure trial would start on that date.

Thursday's hearing comes a day after Pistorius's older brother Carl pleaded not guilty to culpable homicide and reckless driving over a 2008 road accident in which a woman motorcyclist was killed.

The Johannesburg court dismissed a bid by public broadcaster SABC to be allowed to provide live coverage of the proceedings involving Carl Pistorius, 28, saying the two brothers' cases were unrelated and should not be allowed to influence each other.

"This trial pertains to Mr Carl Pistorius, not Mr Oscar Pistorius. This is what we are dealing with here," magistrate Buks du Plessis said.

"These proceedings must not be used or have an influence on any later proceeding against this accused's brother."


© 2013 AFP

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