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Oscar Pistorius, Olympic Athlete Convicted of Murder, Will Be Released on Parole

Oscar Pistorius, a once inspirational figure who gained international fame as an Olympic sprinter for South Africa before he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, will be released on parole, the authorities said on Friday.

A parole board granted Mr. Pistorius’s petition on the basis that he had served half of his 15-year sentence for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home a decade ago, making him eligible for parole according to South African law.

Mr. Pistorius was “happy” and “grateful” that he is set to be released, his lawyer Conrad Dormehl said, but he had hoped to spend Christmas at home.

After South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled earlier this year that Mr. Pistorius was eligible for parole, he was looking forward to being released sooner. Still, the certainty of his release date has put to bed much of the confusion around his parole, Mr. Dormehl added.

There was no immediate comment from the prosecutors or the Steenkamp family.

The Department of Correctional Services said in a statement that Mr. Pistorius, who will be released on Jan. 5, was a “first-time offender, with a positive support system” and therefore met the requirements for parole.

Before his downfall, Mr. Pistorius, now 37, was celebrated around the world as an athlete who had overcome personal adversity as a double amputee and fought for the right to compete in the Olympics, earning the nickname the Blade Runner for the carbon-fiber prosthetic blades that he used to race.

In March, the board denied parole for Mr. Pistorius , saying the authorities had incorrectly credited him with having served the minimum required period of detention, the Department of Correctional Services said at the time.

The calculation was based on a misinterpretation of when Mr. Pistorius’ sentence for murder began. He was initially convicted of manslaughter, but prosecutors appealed, and his conviction was upgraded to murder.An appeals court increased his sentence from six years to 15 years in prison, the minimum recommended by South African law for unpremeditated murder.

This year, after his parole was rejected, Mr. Pistorius’s lawyers asked South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the highest decision-making body in the country, to rule on the parole matter. In October, the court ruled that Mr. Pistorius had served the minimum term and ordered Correctional Services to hear his parole petition.

The legal uncertainty recalls the complexities of Mr. Pistorius’s trial and eventual conviction for the killing of his girlfriend, Ms. Steenkamp, who was 29 at the time. Mr. Pistorius shot Ms. Steenkamp, a model, through a locked bathroom door in the predawn hours of Feb. 14 in 2013.

He maintained that her death was an accident and that he had fired his gun in the belief that an intruder had entered his upscale home in a Pretoria security estate.

Mr. Pistorius was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.Credit…Lucky Nxumalo/CITYPRESS, via Associated Press

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Pistorius had killed Ms. Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in a jealous rage after an argument. During the trial, they pointed to text messages in which Ms. Steenkamp said she was afraid of Mr. Pistorius’ temper as evidence of a volatile relationship between the couple.

As part of the parole-consideration process, the board heard from Ms. Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp. During the March hearing, the Steenkamp family lobbied against Mr. Pistorius’s bid for freedom.

June Steenkamp did not attend the hearing, nor did she oppose parole for Mr. Pistorius, but she did question whether he had been rehabilitated. In a statement, she recalled evidence of Mr. Pistorius’s temper, including the text messages and testimonies from former partners.

“I do not know to what extent his bad behavior still exists or were evident during his time of incarceration,’’ she said in a statement, read by Rob Matthews, a family friend whose daughter was also murdered by a partner. “But I’m concerned for the safety of any woman should this not have been addressed in his rehabilitation process.”

Ms. Steenkamp’s father, Barry Steenkamp, died in September at 80. In media interviews before his death, Mr. Steenkamp maintained that Mr. Pistorius had deliberately shot his daughter.

South African prison officials avoid releasing parolees during the festive season, Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said. The Christmas break over the summer holiday in South Africa could present many “temptations” for recently released prisoners, he added.

In the meantime, prison officials would prepare Mr. Pistorius for his reintegration into society, the spokesman said. The former athlete would also be required to participate in several programs once he is released, although he would not say what these would entail.

Before his conviction, Mr. Pistorius had been celebrated as an inspirational figure. He was born without a fibula in either of his legs, one of the bones that run between the knee and ankle. His legs were amputated before his first birthday, and before his second birthday he was walking on prosthetics.

By age 17, Mr. Pistorius had won gold medals in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. Despite continued wins in the Paralympics games, Mr. Pistorius was determined to compete against able-bodied athletes.

The world athletic body, the I.A.A.F., rejected his bid to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but after winning an appeal he later qualified for and was allowed to compete in the London Games.

He ran the 400 meters at the 2012 Olympics in London, becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games and reaching the semifinals. The fact that he did not win any medals did little to diminish his global profile.

His success on the track also brought wealth and a degree of infamy: He earned more than $1 million in endorsements with major brands and made headlines for crashing his boat in 2008 and for his extravagant taste in pets (two white tigers).

He also earned a spot on People Magazine’s sexiest athletes list, while he and Ms. Steenkamp regularly walked the red carpet in South Africa.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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