(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day, will be released on bail, a South African magistrate ruled on Friday.
In reading his lengthy decision, Magistrate Desmond Nair said, “The issue before me is whether the accused, being who is and the assets he has [here], would seek to duck and dive all over the world.”
He concluded, “I cannot find that he is a flight risk.”
The court set bail at about $113,000 ($1 million rand) and June 4 as the date for Pistorius’ next court appearance.
The other bail conditions are: Pistorius cannot leave the country; he must hand over his passports; he cannot return to his home as long as it’s an active crime scene; he needs permission to leave the Pretoria area; he must visit a police station on a daily basis and be available to a probation officer at all times via cellphone; he is not allowed any communication with prosecution witnesses; he cannot drink alcohol; and he must relinquish his firearms.
“Do you understand?” Nair asked the 26-year-old athlete.
“Yes, sir,” Pistorius replied.
Speaking for the family, Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold, said: “Although we are obviously relieved that Oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us. We are grateful that the Magistrate recognized the validity and strength of our application. As the family, we are convinced that Oscar’s version of what happened on that terrible night will prove to be true.”
The fourth and final day of Pistorius’ bail hearing opened with arguments from the prosecution that the runner’s version of events is improbable and the defense countering that Pistorius had no intent to kill Steenkamp.
Pistorius, who gained global acclaim for racing at the 2012 London Olympics, shot his model girlfriend through a closed bathroom. He says he killed Steenkamp accidentally, but prosecutors allege that he took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs, indicating that he thought out and planned to kill Steenkamp when he shot her three times through a bathroom door.
Pistorius sobbed Friday in court. Barry Roux, his defense attorney, said the prosecution has misinterpreted the assigning of intent — meaning that the runner’s intent to shoot at a supposed intruder in his home cannot be transferred to someone else who was shot — in this case, Steenkamp.
“He did not want to kill Reeva,” Roux told the court.
When Nair, who has been overhearing the bail hearing, asked Roux what the charges should be if Pistorius intended to kill an intruder, the defense attorney responded that he should be charged with culpable homicide. Culpable homicide is defined in South Africa as “the unlawful negligent killing of a human being.”
Roux also made light of the prosecution’s argument that Pistorius is a flight risk, saying that every time the double-amputee goes through airport security, it causes a commotion. He said that Pistorius’ legs need constant maintenance and he needs medical attention for his stumps.
The prosecution argued on Friday that the onus is on Pistorius to provide his version of events, and his version is improbable.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel also spoke of Pistorius’ fame and his disability, even relating him to Wikipedia founder Julian Assange, who is now confined to Ecuador’s London Embassy, where he has been granted political asylum.
“[Assange’s] facial features are as well known as Mr. Pistorius’ prostheses,” Nel said.
Nel argued that Pistorius’ prostheses do not set him apart, stating that it’s no different to any other feature, and the court cannot be seen to treat people with disabilities accused of a crime, or famous people accused of a crime, any differently.
Pistorius has said that in the early hours of Feb. 14, he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.
But prosecutors say that’s implausible, that the gun’s holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn’t there. Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.
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