Oscar Pistorius, Olympic Athlete Convicted of Murder, Is Released


Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete hailed as an inspirational figure until he was accused and convicted of killing his girlfriend, was released on parole on Friday after more than seven years in prison.

Mr. Pistorius quietly left a Pretoria prison, away from the public glare that characterized his high-profile trial nearly a decade ago, and the subsequent stop-start legal proceedings that continued until his parole hearing last November.

Mr. Pistorius, a parolee, “is now at home,” said Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services.

Mr. Pistorius was granted parole in November on the basis that he had served half of a 15-year sentence for murder. In 2013, Mr. Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through a locked bathroom door before dawn, killing her.

The court case drew global headlines and intense interest: Mr. Pistorius, a double amputee, had gained international acclaim first as a Paralympic athlete, and then for competing in the Olympic Games, and Ms. Steenkamp was a model and reality star. The trial spanned seven months and was televised. Audiences watched as Mr. Pistorius sobbed in a South African courtroom and heard the testimony of almost 40 witnesses.

This week, the South African authorities emphasized that Mr. Pistorius’s “elevated public profile” would not afford him any special treatment. The Department of Correctional Services declined to disclose when he would depart prison. The authorities also forbade Mr. Pistorius from speaking to reporters, in line with regulations restricting media interactions.

“Inmates and parolees are never paraded,” the department said in a statement.

Mr. Pistorius will be under parole supervision until 2029, when his sentence officially ends. Now 37, he is expected to live with his family, and must remain in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital. He must also attend rehabilitation programs and is barred from consuming alcohol or any banned substances, the department said.

While the parole decision fell within South Africa’s incarceration regulations, some groups said his freedom had come too soon. Ahead of Mr. Pistorius’s release, a gender rights group that highlights South Africa’s high rates of violence against women resurfaced some of the evidence used against Mr. Pistorius during his trial.

The group, Women for Change, created an image of a text message from Ms. Steenkamp to Mr. Pistorius, which the prosecution used as evidence during the trial.

“I’m scared of you sometimes, of how you snap at me,” the message read.

“Oscar Pistorius is a murderer and he belongs behind bars to serve his full sentence,” the group said on social media. Last year, Women for Change also publicly opposed Mr. Pistorius’s parole bid.

The message on social media was “to serve as a reminder to society of who Oscar was,” said Bulelwa Adonis, a spokeswoman for the group.

Mr. Pistorius’s release on parole followed a tortuous legal case that began in 2013, after the shooting in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. That morning, Mr. Pistorius shot Ms. Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door at his home in an upscale Pretoria security estate.

Mr. Pistorius maintained that her death was an accident, and that he mistook her for an intruder. Prosecutors argued that he had killed Ms. Steenkamp in a jealous rage after an argument, pointing to her text messages as evidence of a volatile relationship.

Mr. Pistorius was initially convicted of manslaughter, but prosecutors appealed, and his conviction was upgraded to murder. An appeals court increased his sentence from six to 15 years, the minimum recommended by South African law for unpremeditated murder.

In March, a parole board denied his bid, saying the authorities had incorrectly credited him with having served the minimum required period of detention. Mr. Pistorius’s lawyers took up the decision with the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest decision-making body, and it ruled in his favor, citing a misinterpretation of when Mr. Pistorius’s sentence for murder began.

At first, the Steenkamp family opposed his bid for parole, on the grounds that they believed Mr. Pistorius deliberately killed their daughter. Last year, Ms. Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, did not oppose Mr. Pistorius’s parole bid, but publicly questioned whether he was truly rehabilitated.

Before his conviction, Mr. Pistorius was lauded for his domination as a Paralympic athlete — he was born without fibulas, so doctors amputated his legs before his first birthday — and for his determination to compete beyond Paralympic events. Nicknamed the Blade Runner for the carbon fiber prosthetic blades he used to run, Mr. Pistorius also had a slew of lucrative endorsements.

By age 17, Mr. Pistorius had won gold medals in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. The world’s governing body for track and field, the I.A.A.F, rejected his bid to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he fought for the ability to run and became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, running the 400 meters at the 2012 London Games.

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