Oscar Pistorius released on bail after murder conviction | News | DW | 08.12.2015
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Oscar Pistorius released on bail after murder conviction

Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail at the onset of his sentencing for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The case will be heard in April 2016.

Former Paralympian and Olympian Oscar Pistorius was granted bail after attending a hearing in Pretoria ahead of sentencing scheduled for 2016. His bail conditions include electronic tagging, surrendering his passport, and restricting his movements to a perimeter of 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 12 midday local time.

Pistorius had been released from jail in October to serve the rest of his manslaughter conviction under house arrest conditions at his uncle's house in Pretoria, having served one year of a five-year manslaughter sentence in prison.

But last week, judges at the South African Supreme Court of Appeal overturned his previous conviction on the lesser charge of "culpable homicide" for the killing of model Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013, declaring Pistorius guilty of murder instead. The appeals judges argued that original trial judge Thokozile Masipa had made "fundamental" errors in her ruling last year.

Throughout his trial, Pistorius said that he had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder when he shot her four times through a locked bathroom door. He faces a minimum 15-year jail sentence under a murder conviction, although the term could be shortened on account of mitigating factors, such as the time he has served to date, his disability and his criminal record as a first-time offender.

The sentencing hearings in the case have been scheduled to start on April 18, 2016.

Bail conditions

Representing Pistorius, defense attorney Barry Roux said that his client's current house arrest conditions were sufficient for the bail conditions, stating that he had always abided by bail conditions during his original trial, while prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius should be kept under stricter conditions as he was a "flight risk."

"Unlike an application for bail, where an accused is awaiting trial, we have a convicted murderer," Nel said in court. Nel added that Pistorius was a flight risk "because of his association with countries such as Italy and such."

But presiding judge Aubrey Ledwaba said that Pistorius had proven he was not a flight risk, referring to his spotless track record during his previous bail period as well as the house arrest served under the earlier culpable homicide conviction.

Dolus eventualis or dolus directus

The Supreme Court of Appeal had overturned Pistorius's earlier conviction last week, arguing that he should have been able to foresee the consequences of his actions when shooting four times through a locked door. Under the law in South Africa, a murder conviction can be upheld if the accused should have known that his or her actions would likely result in someone else's death - known under the legal term "dolus eventualis."

Judge Eric Leach, who read out the appeal decision last week, said that it was "inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy caliber firearm."

Pistorius's defense attorney Barry Roux hinted at an appeal in the sentencing, saying that he was going to argue a conviction under "dolus directus" instead - which implies negligence and recklessness but not premeditated intent.

Pistorius is entitled to make his own appeal to South Africa's Constitutional Court, but his lawyers had previously stated that he was not able to afford further legal proceedings following the costs associated with his original trial. For this reason, his bail was also set at only 10,000 rand (600 euros), while the court could have demanded 1 million rand.

ss/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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