Why Oscar Pistorius release from prison was held up

Oscar Pistorius spent 10 months in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. On Friday, the double-amputee runner was scheduled to go into house arrest, but now his parole is under review again. 

REUTERS/Alon Skuy/Pool/Files
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock on the third day of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, in this March 5, 2014 file photo. Pistorius is due to be released on Friday after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence, in line with South Africa's custodial guidelines for non-dangerous prisoners.

Oscar Pistorius' release from prison was put on hold Wednesday by South Africa's Department of Justice, which said his case must be reviewed again by a parole board because he was approved to be moved to house arrest too early.

Pistorius should have served one-sixth of his jail sentence — 10 months — before being considered for release, Mthunzi said. However, he was considered and approved for release to correctional supervision in June, only eight months into his sentence.

"It is apparent therefore that the decision to release him on  21 August 2015 was made prematurely on 5 June 2015 when the offender was not eligible to be considered at all," the justice department said in a statement.

Spokesman Mhaga said "the decision of the parole board will have to be suspended."

If Pistorius is eventually released to house arrest, what his steps after that will be are less clear. The first amputee to run at the Olympics might race again. Or he might wind up behind bars again if he is found guilty of murder. Prosecutors are seeking that verdict, saying his manslaughter conviction was insufficient. They appealed to the Supreme Court, which is to consider the case in November.

For killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013, Pistorius got a five-year sentence.

With a big chunk of his prison time suspended for good behavior, he was set to spend four years and two months under house arrest — some media reports have called it "mansion arrest" — at his uncle's luxurious home. It boasts a large, cross-shaped swimming pool and is located in an upmarket suburb of Pretoria, the capital.

If put under house arrest, the Department of Correctional Services will consider allowing him to train on the track, but international and South African sports bodies have already said Pistorius will not be allowed to compete during the remaining period of his sentence. Pistorius will be nearly 33 when that sentence is over.

At the Supreme Court, the second-highest in South Africa, a panel of judges will review Pistorius' trial and decide whether Judge Thokozile Masipa made an error in acquitting him of murder in September last year. If the panel finds Pistorius guilty on appeal, he will face a minimum sentence of 15 years in jail. South Africa doesn't have the death penalty.

Prosecutors argue that he should have been found guilty of murder for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet door in his home. Pistorius said he mistook her for an intruder and fired in self-defense. Prosecutors, in appeal papers filed Monday, said Pistorius intended to kill whoever was behind the door. During his trial, the prosecution accused the runner of shooting Steenkamp during an argument.

The family of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV personality, has said "incarceration of 10 months for taking a life is simply not enough." Family lawyer Tania Koen told The Associated Press that Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June, are concentrating this week on marking what would have been their daughter's 32nd birthday on Wednesday.

"We are still struggling with coming to terms with losing our precious daughter Reeva and her loss is felt even more this week," Barry and June Steenkamp said in a statement.

Pistorius family spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said they wouldn't comment, but confirmed Pistorius would live with his uncle, Arnold, while under correctional supervision. Pistorius will still have to live under "strict conditions," according to the corrections department. He won't have to wear an electronic device, department spokesman Logan Maistry said, but will be monitored by a probation officer.

The department would not provide other details of Pistorius' probation conditions, but they would likely include periods of compulsory community service, being allowed to leave the house only at specific times, and a ban on consuming alcohol. Pistorius will have surprise spot-checks to ensure he is not breaking the terms. If it's found he is, he could be sent back to prison.

Pistorius' track career will also become a focus again now.

Peet van Zyl, who manages Pistorius' track career, has not conceded that it is over, saying it's up to Pistorius if he wants to pursue running again.

Van Zyl said they will discuss his future when he is out.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, Oscar Pistorius will not compete in the Paralympics for five years, according to officials, barring the ‘blade-runner’ from Rio Olympics in 2016 and raising questions about whether he’ll make a bid for Tokyo in 2020.

The five-year ban handed down by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) guidelines will stand regardless of whether or not he serves the full five-year jail sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day.

“Any athlete who is serving a sentence for a criminal conviction is not eligible to participate in IPC sanctioned competition,” says Craig Spence, spokesman for the IPC. “Therefore due to the five-year sentence handed down today, the earliest he would be allowed to compete again is 2019.”

But there's less clarity about his future as an Olympic athlete beyond the Paralymics. 

The International Olympic Committee was more ambiguous about Pistorius being allowed to compete in Rio in 2016 or Tokyo four years later. And South Africa's Olympic Committee has said Pistorius would be free to race for his country despite his murder conviction.


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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