S. Africa court clears Pistorius for international travel
PRETORIA (AFP) –
A South African court on Thursday cleared Oscar Pistorius for international travel after the Paralympian sprint star, charged with murdering his girlfriend, challenged his stringent bail terms.
Pistorius, 26, had appealed against a raft of conditions including the confiscation of his passport that he said were unfair and unwarranted.
“I find that the magistrate’s decision not to grant the appellant his passport to travel abroad was wrong,” Judge Bert Bam told the High Court in Pretoria.
The double amputee — who faces trial later this year over the Valentine’s Day killing of his model girlfriend Reena Steenkamp — was not in court for the appeal, which was opposed by the state.
The judge also ruled that Pistorius could return to his upmarket Pretoria home where Steenkamp was shot dead in the early hours of February 14.
He claims he mistook her for an intruder — although the state maintains that the shooting was premeditated murder.
“Why would this athlete go to a country without extradition and go and hide?” lawyer Barry Roux had told the court, saying the bail terms were tantamount to “house arrest” and that Pistorius needed to take part in races abroad to earn a living.
Earlier this month his lawyers argued that the bail conditions treat Pistorius as a flight risk.
The “Blade Runner”, who last year became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics, has cancelled upcoming competitions and has not restarted training, according to his agent Peet Van Zyl.
But Roux said Pistorius wanted to be able to go abroad under controlled circumstances to earn money.
“It is not as if the appellant is travelling for holiday in Mauritius; it’s only to gain an income, there’s no other reason,” Roux said.
After being freed on bail of one million rand ($108,000, 84,000 euros) last month, the sprint star was ordered to surrender his passport and told to inform a corrections officer if he wanted to travel outside Pretoria.
The defence lawyers had also objected to the random mandatory alcohol and drug tests that are part of the bail conditions.
“Of course he was emotional, but does that mean because he is emotional you put him on probational supervision? There’s no causal link,” Roux said.
His next court appearance is scheduled for June 4, but the prosecution said they were not sure trial would start on that date.
Thursday’s hearing came a day after Pistorius’s older brother Carl pleaded not guilty to culpable homicide and reckless driving over a 2008 road accident in which a woman motorcyclist was killed.
The Johannesburg court dismissed a bid by public broadcaster SABC to be allowed to provide live coverage of the proceedings involving Carl Pistorius, 28, saying the two brothers’ cases were unrelated and should not be allowed to influence each other.
“This trial pertains to Mr Carl Pistorius, not Mr Oscar Pistorius. This is what we are dealing with here,” magistrate Buks du Plessis said.
“These proceedings must not be used or have an influence on any later proceeding against this accused’s brother.”