Minister halts Paralmypian Oscar Pistorius's release from jail

James Archibald / Cape Town, Aug 20 () - South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius will stay in prison on Friday after the South African justice minister overruled a decision to grant him parole after serving just 10 months of his 5-year sentence for killing his girlfriend.

Pistorius was sentenced last year after shooting dead his girlfriend, model and television star Reeva Steenkamp, through a locked toilet door in February 2013. He argued that he mistook her for an intruder and the court found him guilty of culpable homicide, which carries a much less serious sentence than that for murder.

Pistorius was initially due to be released from prison on Friday and moved to house arrest under the care of his uncle. Under South African law, non-dangerous prisoners can be considered for correctional supervision after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

Justice minister Michael Masutha said the decision by the parole board in June to free the athlete after serving 10 months of his five-year sentence was premature and without legal basis.

In a statement, he said: "One-sixth of a five year sentence is 10 months and at the time the decision was made Mr Pistorius had served only over six months of his sentence."

The decision by the minister was sparked off by a petition sent to him on Monday opposing the release. The petition, sent by the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa, argued that it was inappropriate that Pistorius be released during South Africa's "Women's Month", which serves highlight awareness of violence against women. It also noted that it considered that his sentence was too short for the seriousness of his crime.

His release on Friday would have fallen just two days after what would have been Steenkamp's 32nd birthday.


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