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Pistorius to stay in jail as parole decision delayed

Published on 05/10/2015

Oscar Pistorius will stay in jail after a decision to grant him parole was again delayed Monday, his lawyer told AFP, in a long battle over whether he should be released early from a prison sentence for killing his girlfriend.

South Africa’s parole review board — the final recourse for parole disputes — met on Monday to determine if the Paralympic star, 28, should be allowed out on house arrest.

“They’re going to refer the matter back to the (original) parole board,” Brian Webber, a lawyer representing Pistorius, told AFP after the review board meeting.

The double-amputee sprinter was sentenced last year to five years in prison for killing model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, the culmination of a trial that attracted global headlines.

He was found guilty of culpable homicide — a charge equivalent to manslaughter — after saying during the trial that he shot his girlfriend through a locked bathroom door because he mistook her for an intruder.

Pistorius was due to leave prison in August until Justice Minister Michael Masutha made a last-minute intervention blocking his release.

Masutha said the parole board had made a mistake when they approved Pistorius for early release, but his intervention has been widely criticised by legal experts.

– Political interference? –

“This process is becoming a little bit unfair because of political interference… it just makes our administrative systems in South Africa look very poor,” criminal lawyer Martin Hood told AFP.

“If a person has good behaviour and has served one sixth of their sentence, then there’s no reason not to grant them parole, it’s a tick-the-box exercise.

“What they’re doing is passing the buck.”

The latest delay means Pistorius could still be in jail next month when a court hears an appeal by prosecutors that could keep him behind bars for a minimum of 15 years.

The prosecutors are pursuing a murder conviction and a longer sentence, arguing that Pistorius deliberately killed Steenkamp after an argument.

That hearing has been set for November 3.

Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, who are convinced Pistorius murdered their daughter in a rage, have strongly opposed the athlete’s possible release, telling an Australian television channel in August he had ruined their lives.

“He killed her. He admits he killed her. She’s dead. Why didn’t he just let her walk away? Why?” Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp said in the interview.

A champion Paralympian and once a poster boy for sport, Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” for the prosthetic legs he wore on the track, shot to fame when he raced against able-bodied competitors in the 2012 London Olympics.