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S.Africa minister casts doubt on Pistorius release

South Africa’s justice minister cast doubt Tuesday on the expected imminent release from prison of Paralympian star Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of killing his girlfriend.

Pistorius has spent less than a year behind bars since being convicted in a sensational trial of culpable homicide — the equivalent of manslaughter — and sentenced to five years in prison.

But the 28-year-old “Blade Runner” is due to leave jail on Friday for a form of house arrest, having served one-sixth of his sentence.

However, prosecutors this week lodged an appeal urging that the athlete be convicted of the more serious crime of murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Pistorius does not dispute that he shot model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013.

But he said he mistook the 29-year-old for an intruder. Prosecutors insist that he deliberately killed her after an argument.

The double amputee won international fame after racing against able-bodied competitors in the 2012 London Olympics, and his trial was broadcast live around the world.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha told eNCA television that he is seeking legal advice on Pistorius’s planned release, which has been widely criticised.

In response to a petition from a rights group asking him to block the release, Masutha said he needs to know if the release is lawful, and whether he has the legal power to intervene.

“I’m confident that by Friday I would be in a position to determine whether legally I have the authority to do anything,” Msutha said.

Reeva Steenkamp’s family has expressed dismay at his imminent release.