28 March 2013

South Africa: Pistorius Granted Permission to Travel Abroad

A South African judge has ruled that Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with murdering his girlfriend, may leave the country. The eased bail restriction now means he can compete in international track meets.

The ruling Thursday in North Gauteng High Court upheld the Paralympic athlete's appeal against some of his bail restrictions.

Judge Bert Bam said that Pistorius, who is charged with murder in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, must travel under certain conditions.

In order to leave the country, Pistorius must provide an itinerary of his travel plans at least one week before he is to leave. Furthermore, his passport will be held by a court while he is in South Africa.

The ruling now means that the 26-year-old Paralympic champion, who is facing a life sentence if found guilty of murder, can race in international competitions again. Pistorius rose to international fame at the London Olympics and Paralympics of 2012. He was the first double amputee ever to compete in the summer games, with the assistance of his carbon fiber prosthetics.

Although Pistorius' lawyers said the athlete had no immediate plans to compete, he would likely need to return to track in the future to "to earn an income," they said. Pistorius did not attend the court session.

"He has no desire to compete now but it might change and it will change," defense lawyer Barry Roux told the judge. Roux assured that Pistorius would not try and dodge trial if he is allowed to travel internationally.

Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp accidentally when he fired shots through his locked bathroom door on Feb. 14, fearing there was an intruder in his house. However, prosecutors say he shot the model and reality TV star intentionally after they argued, and have charged him with premeditated murder.

The judge also ruled in favor of Pistorius on several other conditions. He no longer has to be regularly supervised by a probation official and is now allowed to return to his house, where he shot Steenkamp. He also no longer has to report regularly to a police station.

Pistorius' next court appearance is June 4, when chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court his team aims to serve indictments.

- Reuters, AP, AFP

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