Oscar Pistorius seeks parole decade after killing girlfriend
He was jailed in 2016, initially for a six-year term, but had that sentence increased to 13 years after an appeal by prosecutors who argued the initial sentence was too lenient. Pistorius, a gun enthusiast, told his trial he had believed Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her several times through the bathroom door with ammunition designed to inflict maximum damage to the human body.
Oscar Pistorius, the former Paralympic champion jailed in 2016 for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was on Friday seeking an early release from prison at a parole board hearing. Once the darling of the Paralympic movement for pushing for greater recognition and acceptance of disabled athletes, South African Pistorius shot dead Steenkamp, a model and law student, in his bathroom on Valentine's Day in 2013.
The athlete, known as "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs, went from public hero to convicted murderer in a trial that drew worldwide interest. Pistorius has become eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence. Steenkamp's family oppose his bid and will give verbal and written statements at the hearing on the impact the murder had on them, their lawyer Tania Koen told Reuters.
Arriving at Atteridgeville prison near the capital Pretoria on Friday morning for the closed-door hearing, Reeva's mother June Steenkamp said she was feeling nervous. "It's going to be very hard to be in the same room as him," she told reporters from her car. "I don't believe his story."
She was later seen leaving the prison where the hearing was being held, but it was not clear whether it had concluded as the family and prison spokespeople were not available to comment. The independent parole board must determine whether Pistorius is at risk of committing similar crimes in the future, prison spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.
It will consider his disciplinary record, training programmes in prison and his physical and mental state, prison officials said. However, a decision could take some time.
After the hearing, the parole board will deliberate and make its decision, Nxumalo told reporters, without giving a deadline. If Pistorius is granted parole, he will have to go through a pre-release programme before leaving prison, he added.
BATHROOM DOOR Pistorius' lawyer, Julian Knight, told Reuters Pistorius was due to appear before the parole board to answer questions based on Knight's written submission arguing for his client's release.
"The basis for my argument is that there doesn't seem to be any negative factors precluding his being released on parole because he meets the requirements of the department in terms of their policies and procedures," Knight said. He said he did not expect a decision on Friday.
Pistorius, who had both legs amputated as a baby, reached the peak of his fame in 2012 when he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, reaching the 400m semi-finals in London. He was jailed in 2016, initially for a six-year term, but had that sentence increased to 13 years after an appeal by prosecutors who argued the initial sentence was too lenient.
Pistorius, a gun enthusiast, told his trial he had believed Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her several times through the bathroom door with ammunition designed to inflict maximum damage to the human body. Pistorius shuffled through the Pretoria court without his prosthetics to show how vulnerable he was faced with the threat of an intruder.
The athlete broke down crying as he told the court that he had been trying to protect Steenkamp when he fired the shots. The prosecutor at the time accused him of using emotional breakdowns to avoid questioning. He met Steenkamp's father Barry last year when participating in a process known as victim-offender dialogue - part of South Africa's restorative justice programme that brings parties affected by a crime together in a bid to achieve closure.
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