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Africa

Judge to decide on Pistorius bail as hearing ends

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-22

A judge is set to rule on Friday whether to grant bail to paralympian Oscar Pistorius, charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors say he is a cold-blooded killer while his own lawyers claim the shooting was accidental.

The defence and prosecution both completed their arguments Friday morning in Oscar Pistorius’s bail hearing, with the magistrate soon to rule if the double-amputee athlete can be freed or if he must stay behind bars pending trial in the Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend.

The star sprinter, known as "blade runner", entered the court building on Friday morning with his head covered by a jacket.

Defence lawyers for Pistorius say the athlete shot dead his girlfriend only by terrible mistake, and deserves bail to prepare for a case that has garnered global attention and has been marred by a bungled police investigation.

The Olympic champion, whose lower legs were amputated in infancy, has become an even more globally recognised figure since he killed model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day at his home.

Prosecutors have told the court it was a premeditated murder, with Pistorius firing four shots through a locked toilet door at a cowering Steenkamp on the other side. She was hit in the head, arm and hip.

'We were deeply in love.'

Witnesses said they heard gunshots and screams comingfrom the home in a gated community surrounded by three-metre-high stone walls and topped with an electric fence.

Blind panic

Pistorius contends he was acting in self-defence, mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder and feeling vulnerable because he was unable to attach his prosthetic limbs in time to confront the threat, he said in an affidavit read in court.

The 26-year-old said he grabbed a 9-mm pistol from under his bed and went into the bathroom.

Pistorius described how he fired into the locked toilet door in a blind panic in the mistaken belief that the intruder was lurking inside.

Bail hearings in South Africa allow for prosecutors and defence lawyers to lay out their basic arguments, based on preliminary evidence.

The arrest of Pistorius stunned millions who watched in awe last year as the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter reached the semi-final of the 400 m in the London Olympics.

The impact has been greatest in sports-mad South Africa, where Pistorius was seen as a rare hero who commanded respect from both blacks and whites, transcending the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid.

Police investigating Pistorius pulled their lead detective off the athlete’s case on Thursday after it emerged he himself faces attempted murder charges for shooting at a minibus.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-02-22

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