He was an internationally known sports star, but ten years ago the life of the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius took a dramatic turn. On Valentine's Day night, he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through the bathroom door at his home and was eventually convicted of murder. After he has now served about half of his prison sentence, a commission will advise on Friday whether to release the 36-year-old subject to conditions.
The Commission, which meets in Pretoria, is made up of representatives from law enforcement and the police, as well as ordinary citizens. She is likely to announce her decision on early release after a few days of deliberation.
South African law provides that a convict can apply for reduced sentence when he has served half of his sentence. Pistorius was sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison in an appeals process in November 2017.
Now the question is "whether the goal of detention has been achieved," prison spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo told AFP. In addition to examining Pistorius' physical and mental condition, the commission is also examining his risk of reoffending.
The extensive investigation was initiated more than a year ago. This included meeting Pistorius with Steenkamp's parents. At the time, they expressed shock at the idea that their daughter's murderer could be released prematurely.
The act on the night of February 13-14, 2013 caused horror across the country and made international headlines. Pistorius was staying the night with his girlfriend, 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp, at his heavily secured Pretoria estate. According to his own statement, he had believed that a burglar was in the house. He shot four times through the bathroom door, Steenkamp was hit by three bullets and died.
The athlete, then known as "Blade Runner" because of his lower leg prostheses, was arrested early in the morning. He was later charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison in 2014. in the first trial, he vomited several times in the courtroom as a pathologist detailed his girlfriend's injuries. He burst into tears as the verdict was announced.
Prosecutors appealed and charged him with murder. Finally, Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison in 2016. Actually, murder in South Africa is punishable by at least 15 years imprisonment, only in exceptional circumstances are lower penalties possible.
The public prosecutor found the sentence far too mild and appealed again. Finally, in 2017, Pistorius was sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison, which he is serving in a prison near Pretoria. According to prosecutors, Pistorius shot his girlfriend on purpose through the bathroom door. The investigation suggested that Steenkamp had taken refuge from her boyfriend's frenzy in the bathroom. Several witnesses reported the woman screaming on the night of the murder.
In the trials, a character portrait of the accused was also drawn that made his excuses seem more than implausible. Pistorius was considered a trigger-happy choleric. Witnesses testified that Steenkamp and Pistorius had often argued. He was convicted in another trial (there were several) for firing shots from a car. He never confessed to the crime and sticks to the burglar version.
Pistorius was at the end of it. The six-time Paralympic champion, who made sports history when he competed in the 400-meter dash against able-bodied athletes at the London 2012 Olympics, lost his sponsors to the murder trial. He went bankrupt and had to sell his house to pay his lawyers.
Steenkamp's parents think Pistorius' punishment is only fair. After the significant extension of the prison term in the second appeal, their daughter can now "finally rest in peace," they said at the time.
Steenkamp's mother June Steenkamp will be present at the hearing on Friday, her lawyer Tania Koen announced. Her husband, Barry Steenkamp, is unable to attend due to ill health, but the couple will submit their views on the Pistorius case to the Commission in writing. It will probably indicate that Pistorius is still sticking to his version of the crime that he shot suspected burglars. "Then the law takes its course," Koen told AFP.
Should Pistorius' request for early release be rejected, he can request a re-examination of his request.