A South African court has denied a bid by lawyers for Olympian Oscar Pistorius to block prosecutors from appealing his manslaughter conviction. They are pushing for the more serious charge of murder.
The prosecution had appealed the culpable homicide verdict handed down to Pistorius, which saw him jailed for five years.
Prosecutors can now appeal for a murder verdict against the former athlete. If convicted of the higher charge Pistorius could see his jail term raised to 25 years, with a minimum of 15.
Defense lawyers had asked judge Thokozile Masipa to overturn her earlier decision granting prosecutors the right to appeal the original verdict, but she dismissed the application.
Masipa said the application by Pistorius' defense contained "nothing new," and told both sides they could argue their case at the Supreme Court.
In December the prosecution was given permission to appeal Masipa's decision to acquit Pistorius of murder and instead find him guilty on a lesser charge, arguing she had misinterpreted the law.
Her original ruling against Pistorius has been widely criticized by legal experts and members of the public alike.
The head of Pistorius' defense, lawyer Barry Roux, argued that allowing prosecutors to appeal the trial verdict was a "mistake." The head of the prosecution, Gerrie Nel, countered that Pistorius' lawyers were looking for a "never-ending case" to prevent it ever getting to the court of appeal.
Cases can take up to two years to reach the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Model Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed in Pistorius' Pretoria home on Valentine's Day in 2013.
The 28-year-old athlete said he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar, shooting four times through the bathroom door. Following a 41-day trial, the running star was found guilty of culpable homicide.
He is currently housed in the hospital ward of Kgosi Mampuru prison due to his disability.
Prison authorities have denied that Pistorius, the first double-amputee to compete against able-bodied sprinters at an Olympic Games, is receiving any special treatment.
an/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)