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Sprint star Pistorius indicted on murder charges, trial date set

South African Paralympian and Olympian sprint star Oscar Pistorius has been indicted on charges of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend. If convicted, he faces a life sentence.

A Pretoria court announced on Monday that Pistorius will go on trial on March 3 next year, charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14.

Magistrate Desmond Nair said the trial would run until March 20.

The 26-year-old Pistorius, who was present at the hearing, held hands, cried and prayed with his two siblings before the ruling was handed down.

The double-amputee athlete, known popularly as the "blade runner" because of the fiberglass prosthetic legs he uses when competing, is currently on bail of one million rand ($99,000, 74,000 euros) a week.

He has admitted to having killed Steenkamp, but has denied that it was murder, saying he shot her through a locked bathroom door in the belief that she was an intruder. Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, died from gunshot wounds to the head, elbow and hip.

Prosecutors say that a ballistics report showed Pistorius had donned his two prostheses before firing four shots through the door, thus indicating that the murder was premeditated and deliberate.

Monday's court hearing coincided with what would have been Steenkamp's 30th birthday.

Pistorius, already a Paralympic champion, catapulted to fame last year in London when he became the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics against able-bodied contenders.

tj/pfd (AFP, AP)