The parole board of South Africa has approved the early release of Oscar Pistorius, the former athlete who was imprisoned for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013.
Reworded: On Valentine’s Day 10 years ago, Pistorius fired shots through a bathroom door in their shared home in Pretoria, killing Steenkamp who was a law graduate and model. He stated that he believed there was an intruder in the bathroom when he pulled the trigger.
The South African correctional services department announced on Friday that he will be released on 5 January, as the parole board has determined him to be ready for reintegration into society. He has spent a total of eight and a half years in prison and an additional eight months on house arrest.
Prior to the murder of Steenkamp, Pistorius was celebrated as a national icon for his achievements in winning Paralympic medals and making history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
The act of murder brought him notoriety, and a lengthy string of legal proceedings and challenges sparked global discussion about violence based on gender and the pursuit of justice.
June, the mother of Steenkamp, had implored the parole board to prioritize the safety of women in their decision-making process. She emphasized that Pistorius has never acknowledged deliberately harming Steenkamp.
I am skeptical of Oscar’s claim that he mistook the person in the bathroom for a burglar,” stated the victim in her impact statement. “I do not personally know anyone who believes this. My beloved child screamed for help, loud enough for the neighbors to hear.”
I am unsure of the reasoning behind his decision to fire four shots through a closed door using hollow-point bullets, even though I believe he was aware that it was Reeva.
She expressed doubt about Pistorius’ rehabilitation but stated that she would not object to his release if authorities deemed it appropriate.
Barry Steenkamp, the father of Steenkamp, passed away in September and June. He did not attend the parole hearing on Friday, explaining that he did not have the strength to face Pistorius again after his husband’s passing.
Rob Matthews, whose daughter was killed in 2004, read a statement to reporters outside the prison where the parole hearing took place. He has since become a friend of the Steenkamp family.
During the first trial in 2014, the judge determined that Pistorius was guilty of culpable homicide, a crime similar to manslaughter. The ruling was based on the lack of evidence that showed Pistorius had intended to kill Steenkamp.
The decision sparked an uproar, as women’s advocacy groups cautioned that it conveyed a hazardous message regarding the worth of women’s lives.
Following an appeal made by prosecutors, Pistorius was found guilty of murder in the supreme court of appeal. This decision was based on the legal concept of dolus eventualis, indicating that he acted with severe carelessness and should have been aware that the person behind the door would likely be killed.
Initially, he received a six-year prison sentence, which was less than half of the 15-year minimum requested by the prosecutors. However, in 2017, the supreme court deemed this sentence to be excessively lenient and increased it to 15 years, with credit for time already served.
Numerous activists advocating against gender-based violence and intimate partner abuse argue that the sentence is insufficient, and have criticized the decision to grant parole to Pistorius.
According to Laura Richards, a criminal behavioral analyst on X, the decision to have Pistorius attend anger management classes is “terrible” and “a joke.” She believes that those in charge have no understanding of coercive control.
David Challen, a campaigner, referred to it as “disgraceful” on X. He also stated, “This demonstrates the low value that justice systems around the globe place on the lives of women who are killed by men.”
Pistorius, who recently celebrated his 37th birthday, was at the peak of his popularity when he committed the murder of Steenkamp. Due to a double amputation below the knees at just 11 months old, he gained the nickname “blade runner” for his use of advanced carbon-fibre prosthetics in races. He was able to capitalize on his achievements by securing profitable endorsement deals and sponsorships.
During the trials, the prosecution presented evidence of a different aspect of his life, which included possession of firearms, hostile confrontations, and accusations of violence towards previous romantic partners. Additionally, he was convicted of recklessly shooting a gun in a restaurant.
He is anticipated to reside at his uncle’s residence in an affluent Pretoria neighborhood, the same place he stayed during his trial for murder.
The conditions of the parole will remain in effect for five years until his sentence ends on December 5th, 2029. These requirements include participation in programs addressing anger management and violence towards women, as well as fulfilling community service obligations.
According to a spokesperson from the corrections department, the individual is restricted from leaving Pretoria and must notify authorities of any significant changes in their life, such as relocating or obtaining employment.
This report includes contributions from Reuters and Associated Press.