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South African court rejects Oscar Pistorius parole request

FILE - Oscar Pistorius speaks on a mobile phone in the High Court in Pretoria,   -  
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Alon Skuy/AP

South Africa

Former South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, convicted of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp a decade ago, will remain in prison after a prison board denied his request for parole on Friday.

The prison services informed, to the surprise of everyone and in a brief statement, that the refusal was related to the fact that the convict had not yet served a sufficient part of his sentence to be able to obtain an early release.

"The inmate has not completed the minimum period of detention, as decided by the Supreme Court of Appeal," the last court to sentence Pistorius in 2017 after multiple appeals, the statement said.

In a brief memo obtained by AFP, and dated Tuesday, that court explains that it considers the sentence imposed to start from the date of his conviction in 2017 and not from his first conviction in 2014.

"The request was denied" and "will be reviewed in a year," said with AFP the lawyer of the victim's family, Me Tania Koen, welcoming the decision.

The spokesman for the prison services, Singabakho Nxumalo, said to the press that Oscar Pistorius will have completed the minimum required only in August 2024, when he will be able to apply for early release.

He was eligible since July 2021, although the prison administration had announced for months.

An ad hoc committee met on Friday morning at Atteridgeville prison near Pretoria, where the 36-year-old ex-athlete is serving a sentence of more than 13 years. Under South African law, a convicted murderer is eligible for early release after serving half his sentence. 

Reeva Steenkamp's parents had made their opposition to her early release known, believing that Oscar Pistorius never told the truth. 

"I don't believe his story," said a visibly distressed mother, June Steenkamp, as she arrived outside the prison. 

She did not testify in front of her daughter's murderer, as the commission decided to hear the latter in a second time, said her lawyer Tania Koen. 

The parents of the victim are living "a life sentence" since the violent death of their daughter, said Koen. "They miss her every day.

They "believe that he should not be released" because "he has shown no remorse and he is not rehabilitated, because if he were, he would have been honest and would have told the true story of what happened that night," she insisted. 

- Judicial saga -

In the early hours of Valentine's Day, February 14, 2013, Pistorius fired a gun through his bedroom bathroom door. Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, is killed by four bullets. 

Rich, famous, the six-time Paralympic champion had entered the legend of sport a year earlier by lining up with the able-bodied in the 400 meters of the London Olympics, a first for a double amputee.

"Blade Runner", his nickname in reference to his carbon prostheses, was arrested in the early morning. He pleads misunderstanding, saying he thought a burglar had broken into his ultra-secure residence.

During his trial, broadcast live on television in 2014, the ex-star appears in tears, vomiting when reading the autopsy report. He gets five years in prison for manslaughter.

The prosecution finds the justice too lenient and appeals and re-characterizes as murder. The judicial saga kept the media in suspense, the world was fascinated by this unusual case.

On appeal, Pistorius presented himself on his stumps to try to win the sympathy of the judge. He was sentenced to six years in prison. 

The prosecution still considers the sentence insufficient. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal sentenced him to 13 years and 5 months in prison. Dropped by his sponsors, and ruined, the fallen idol sells his house to pay his lawyers.

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