Pistorius release put on hold by South Africa justice minister

The Paralympian was due to be moved to house arrest after serving 10 months in jail

Oscar Pistorius during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Photograph:Alon Skuy/Reuters

Oscar Pistorius during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Photograph:Alon Skuy/Reuters

 

Oscar Pistorius’s release from prison has been put on hold by the South African government.

The Paralympian, convicted of culpable homicide for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was due to be moved to house arrest tomorrow after serving 10 months behind bars.

But Michael Masutha, the justice minister, has referred the matter back to the parole review board, sowing legal confusion and doubts over the release date.

Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesman for the justice department, said the date would have to be reviewed again because the athlete was approved to be moved to house arrest too soon.

Pistorius should have served 10 months, or one-sixth, of his five-year sentence before being considered for release, Mr Mhaga said. But he was approved for parole in June, eight months into his sentence.

Parole board

Ian Levitt, a lawyer who attended the trial, praised the minister’s intervention. “The minister was acting prudently, acting responsibly,” he told the eNews site Channel Africa. “He did exactly what he is entitled to do. The ultimate decision rests with the minister.”

Mr Masutha received a petition on Monday from the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa expressing opposition to the release of Pistorius during the country’s Women’s Month.

A statement from the department of justice and correctional services cited a law stating that a person sentenced to imprisonment must serve at least one-sixth of his or her sentence before being considered for “correctional supervision”, a form of house arrest.

It said: “The decision to release him on August 21st, 2015 was made prematurely on June 5th, 2015 when the offender was not eligible to be considered at all . . . One sixth of a five-years’ sentence is 10 months and at the time the decision was made Mr Pistorius had served only over six months of his sentence.”

The Women’s League of the governing African National Congress welcomed the ruling. It said: “The ANC Women’s League remains convinced that judge [Thokozile] Masipa handed down an erroneous judgment and an extremely lenient sentence to Pistorius – setting a bad precedent in cases involving gender-based violence, especially in instances where women die at the hands of their partners.

Anneliese Burgess, a spokeswoman for the Pistorius family, said: “We take note of the statement issued by the department of justice and correctional services this afternoon. We leave this to the legal team for their consideration.” – (Guardian service)