Pistorius granted bail, will appeal murder conviction

Pretoria (AFP) –


Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius was released on bail Tuesday, as he vowed to appeal against his murder conviction for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.

South African judges last week found him guilty of murder, overturning his earlier conviction on the lesser charge of culpable homicide for killing Steenkamp, a model and law graduate.

Pistorius, 29, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, appeared relaxed at the bail hearing in the Pretoria High Court, chatting with his legal team before standing in the dock to hear the judge's ruling.

He was released from jail in October to live under house arrest at his uncle's house in Pretoria after serving one year of his five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide -- the equivalent of manslaughter.

Under the new conviction for murder, he faces a minimum 15-year jail term that may be reduced due to time already spent in jail and the fact that he is a first-time offender.

"The applicant is released on bail of 10,000 rand ($690)," judge Aubrey Ledwaba said, adding Pistorius would remain under house arrest.

Ledwaba said Pistorius would be allowed to leave the house at set times with official permission, staying within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of his house.

The High Court will reconvene on April 18 to hear an update from Pistorius's lawyers on his attempt to appeal to the Constitutional Court, South Africa's highest court.

Pistorius's bail application outlined the basis of his planned Constitutional Court appeal against the murder conviction handed down last week by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

He accused the appeal court of overstepping its authority by revising the first trial's finding that "I genuinely and honestly believed that my life and that of the deceased were in danger".

Pistorius spoke in court only to calmly say "I do" when asked whether he made his bail application voluntarily.

No date was announced for his re-sentencing.

A lawyer for Steenkamp's family told AFP that they "understand it is his constitutional right to (appeal), but believe it is a delaying tactic as they do believe that he is guilty of murder."

- 'Clutching at straws'? -

Martin Hood, a criminal lawyer based in Johannesburg, told AFP that Pistorius was "clutching at straws" by trying to take his case to the Constitutional Court.

"The Supreme Court of Appeal's judgement was clear, simple, lucid,' Hood said.

The Paralympic gold medallist's lawyers had earlier said he cannot afford further legal battles as he had been left penniless by huge bills.

After the hearing, Pistorius reported to the Correctional Services headquarters to be fitted with an electronic monitoring tag.

Officials told AFP it would be placed on his wrist.

On the streets outside the court, South Africans voiced their displeasure with Pistorius, saying he was not prepared to take responsibility for his actions.

"He's supposed to get 15 years in jail, he deserves it," said Thomas Mdlule, a 30-year-old selling newspapers on a nearby corner.

"He must be inside jail, not under house arrest."

Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day two years ago, saying he mistook her for an intruder when he shot four times through the locked door of his bedroom toilet with a pistol he kept under his bed.

He denied killing her in a rage and, during his dramatic trial, sobbed and occasionally vomited in the dock as details of his lover's death were examined in excruciating detail.

Finding him guilty of murder the court of appeal said that it was "inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy calibre firearm".

The double-amputee sprinter, known as the "Blade Runner" because of the prosthetic legs he used on the track, has been doing community service at a Pretoria police station in recent weeks.

He killed Steenkamp at the peak of his fame, and he has since lost his glittering sports career, lucrative contracts and status as a global role model for the disabled.

No family members from either side were in court Tuesday.

The bail application revealed Pistorius is enrolled in an online business and law course run by the London School of Economics. It also said he would seek employment while on bail.