Oscar Pistorius' parole back under review after delay

A picture taken on Oct 16, 2014 shows South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius attending his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
A picture taken on Oct 16, 2014 shows South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius attending his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A South African parole board is due to meet on Monday (Oct 5) to determine whether Paralympian star Oscar Pistorius should be released early from a prison sentence for killing his girlfriend.

The 28-year-old 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, after 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 to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

But he was kept behind bars after Justice Minister Michael Masutha made a last minute intervention blocking his release, saying the parole board had made a mistake when they approved Pistorius for parole before he had served a sixth of his five-year sentence, as required by law.

The board's first meeting two weeks ago in the eastern port city of Durban ended without the panel of legal experts headed by a judge making a decision on Pistorius' case, and the matter was postponed.

"The hearing will go ahead on Monday," correctional services spokesman Manelisi Wolela confirmed to AFP.

Ms 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 station in August he had ruined their lives.

"How can 10 months be enough? He killed her. He admits he killed her. She's dead. Why didn't he just let her walk away? Why?" her mother June Steenkamp said in the interview.

Even if he is freed from prison and placed under house arrest, Pistorius could find himself back behind bars for a minimum of 15 years if an appeal by prosecutors next month is successful.

They are pursuing a murder conviction and a longer sentence, arguing that the athlete deliberately killed Ms Steenkamp after an argument. If the parole review board decides that Pistorius should be released from prison, he might be able to leave jail immediately, his lawyer Brian Webber told AFP.

Whatever the outcome of the parole decision, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear the prosecution's appeal on Nov 3.

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