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South Africa's Pistorius awaits bail decision

Magistrate summarising arguments in Pretoria court for and against bail for Olympian accused of murdering girlfriend.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2013 14:08
Pistorius has been charged with shooting dead his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day [Reuters]

A judge is set to decide whether to grant bail to Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympian accused of killing his girlfriend, with his lawyers arguing that he is far too famous to have any chance of fleeing prosecution.

The bail hearing in Pretoria, which began last week, resumed at 08:00 GMT on Friday.

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

Pistorius, known as "blade runner" and whose lower legs were amputated in infancy, shot 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 Steenkamp on the other side. She was hit in the head, arm and hip.

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

Preliminary evidence

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 9mm 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.

Al Jazeera's Tania Page, reporting from outside the courthouse in Pretoria, said, "South Africans can see holes in each of the stories provided by either the defence or the prosecution."

"Today the prosecution has been pushing the lines that Pistorius feels sorry about what happened because it is damaging for his career, and therefore feels sorry for himself," she said.

Meanwhile, Pistorius' training coach made statements earlier to the press, saying, "If he gets bail, I say give him space with his family.....I'm ready, we can start training Monday."

Detective replaced

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

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.

As a result, police appointed a new chief investigator on Thursday, replacing Hilton Botha with Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo.

Bulewa Makeke, spokeswoman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said the attempted murder charges had been reinstated against Botha on February 4.

Police say they found out about it after Botha testified in Pistorius' bail hearing on Wednesday.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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