PRETORIA, October 15- Oscar Pistorius will be released on parole next week after serving one year of a five-year term for killing his girlfriend, officials said Thursday, with the Paralympian star likely to be put under strict house arrest.
Lawyers for Pistorius had argued he should have been allowed out in August after serving a sixth of his sentence for killing model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.
But he remained behind bars after Justice Minister Michael Masutha made a last-minute intervention and the case was referred for review.
Steenkamp’s parents say Pistorius killed their daughter on purpose and have contested any parole.
“They are not surprised at all — it was expected,” Tania Koen, a lawyer acting on behalf of Steenkamp family, told AFP after speaking to June and Barry Steenkamp on Thursday.
“But it doesn’t change anything in their lives. Their daughter is still not coming back.
“Whether Pistorius is incarcerated or released on parole, their daughter is still gone.”
After meeting last week, the parole board said it wanted to consult with Steenkamp’s family over Pistorius’s possible release.
An official statement from the department of correctional services said the parole board “approved the placement of offender Oscar Pistorius under correctional supervision” from Tuesday.
“The parole board considered all submissions, including the offender’s profile report, the directives of the Parole Review Board and the submission of the victim’s family.”
It gave no details about Pistorius parole conditions except that they included “continued psychotherapy” and firearms restrictions.
Legal experts said the decision entailed house arrest, with severe restrictions on his movement. He may have to wear a tracking tag and report regularly to a local police station.
– State to appeal –
Pistorius’s family had accused officials of bowing to “political and media hype” in denying him parole.
“I do think correctional services have probably considered how unfairly he has been treated. He should have been released on August 21,” Brian Webber, a lawyer representing Pistorius, told AFP last week.
In a trial that made headlines around the world, Pistorius, now 28, was jailed last year for killing Steenkamp.
He was found guilty of culpable homicide — a charge equivalent to manslaughter — after saying he shot her through a locked bathroom door because he mistook her for an intruder.
After his release, Pistorius will face a further test on November 3 when prosecutors appeal to South Africa’s Supreme Court for a murder conviction and a tougher sentence.
Once a poster boy for Paralympic sport, Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” for the prosthetic legs he wore on the track, rose to global fame when he raced against able-bodied competitors in the 2012 London Olympics.
But the trial revealed the world-famous athlete to have a volatile personality and a penchant for guns.
He was accused of firing a gun through the sunroof of an ex-girlfriend’s moving car in 2011 and, weeks before he shot Steenkamp, he accidentally discharged a gun at a Johannesburg restaurant.
Pistorius, who sold his houses to pay legal bills, has lost his lucrative sponsorship contracts and has no immediate hope of salvaging his athletic career whatever the outcome of the appeal.
He may serve his house arrest at his wealthy uncle’s house — a mansion in a upmarket Pretoria suburb — though he could also request to stay in a different location to try to evade the glare of the media.
A middle child whose parents divorced when he was six, Pistorius has a problematic relationship with his father, Henke, but is close to his siblings who were at his side in court.
His mother died when he was 15 and the date of her death is tattooed on his arm.
In a bizarre twist this week, two South African men who rent the house where Pistorius shot dead Steenkamp appeared in a video showing off the bathroom where the crime took place.