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Oscar Pistorius, Paralympian convicted of murder, to be released on parole

Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius, accused of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, arriving at a court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a hearing in July 2016. The athlete will be released for parole in January.
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Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius, accused of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, arriving at a court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a hearing in July 2016. The athlete will be released for parole in January.

Oscar Pistorius, a South African Paralympian, is set to be released from jail on parole nearly 11 years after fatally shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

A parole board found Friday that Pistorius, 37, had completed the minimum detention requirement — half of his 13-year sentence — to make him parole-eligible under South African law.

His release date is set for Jan. 5, 2024.

A double-amputee since infancy, Pistorius was once one of the world's most admired runners, known as the "Blade Runner" for the carbon-fiber prosthetics he used to compete on world stages including the 2012 London Olympics.

He was at the peak of his popularity when he shot Steenkamp four times through his home's bathroom door on Valentine's Day 2013.

During a trial that garnered worldwide headlines, Pistorius testified that he'd mistaken the 29-year-old model and paralegal for a burglar. Prosecutors argued that she'd fled to the bathroom during a late-night argument and that Pistorius had a penchant for angry confrontations involving guns.

Pistorius was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter. But prosecutors successfully overturned the conviction for a higher charge of murder. They appealed again when his murder conviction sparked only a six-year sentence.

Pistorius was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in 2016 and has been imprisoned ever since.

The athlete made a parole bid in March, but was denied, with the board saying then that he'd failed to complete the minimum detention period. A court later ruled that was a mistaken calculation, leading to Friday's hearing at the Atteridgeville Correctional Center just outside of Pretoria.

The parole board had assessed Pistorius's overall condition and found he had a "positive support system," according to a statement from South Africa's Correctional Services Department.

A victim's impact statement from June Steenkamp, Reeva's mother, was another factor in the decision, authorities said at a press conference following the hearing.

June Steenkamp didn't directly oppose Pistorious' release but wondered whether his "temper and abusive behavior towards women" have been properly rehabilitated and expressed her concern for the safety of other women, according to a statement read by a representative for the family.

Pistorius's parole will come with five years of conditions, including that he attend an anger management course and not leave the region of Pretoria without permission from authorities, according to a report from the Associated Press that cites a Department of Corrections spokesperson.

Those conditions left the victim's mother "satisfied with the conditions imposed by the parole board because it means that they paid attention to what she was saying," lawyer Tania Koen told NPR. "She sees this as a victory for victim participation."

NPR's Kate Bartlett to this report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.

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