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Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius released after being incarcerated for close to 9 years for the death of his girlfriend

FILE – Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 15, 2016, after his sentencing proceedings. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

According to Department of Corrections spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo, 37-year-old Pistorius departed Atteridgeville Correctional Center in Pretoria and underwent processing at a parole office prior to being reunited with his family, the Associated Press reported. Nxumalo described Pistorius’ release as an “operation” intended to prevent a media frenzy and declined to provide further specifics.

Pistorius has served nearly nine years of a 13-year, five-month sentence for fatally shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his residence on Valentine’s Day 2013. He became eligible for early release after serving at least half of his sentence and was granted parole in November.

Under stringent parole conditions, Pistorius is prohibited from engaging with the media until his sentence concludes in December 2029. Initially, he is anticipated to reside at his uncle’s estate in the upscale Pretoria suburb of Waterkloof, where he stayed during his seven-month trial in 2014.

A police van was stationed outside the residence, with a police officer observed exiting late Friday. Despite the official’s refusal to address reporters, three private security vehicles were also parked outside the estate.

Pistorius and his siblings were under the guardianship of their uncle and aunt, Arnold and Lois Pistorius, after estranging from their father. Pistorius’ mother passed away in his teenage years. Arnold Pistorius was spotted departing the residence, as was Pistorius’ sister, Aimee.

Even though corrections officials had cautioned that Pistorius would not be “paraded” for the cameras upon his release, a few dozen journalists, photographers, and TV cameras were stationed outside the prison in the hopes of capturing his departure.

Pistorius contends that he accidentally shot 29-year-old Steenkamp after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder concealed in his Pretoria villa in the dead of night. He discharged four rounds through a locked bathroom door, striking Steenkamp in the head, hip, and hand. Pistorius asserted that he fired in what he perceived as self-defense and was unaware of his girlfriend’s presence in the enclosure. Prosecutors alleged at his trial that he deliberately killed her in a fit of anger during a late-night dispute.

Besides her modeling career, Steenkamp, a law graduate and reality TV personality, advocated against violence towards women in South Africa. Tragically, she and Pistorius had only been in a relationship for a few months.

Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, expressed acceptance of Pistorius’ parole in a statement, although acknowledging that the pain of her daughter’s passing remains “raw and real.” Her father, Barry Steenkamp, passed away the previous year.

June Steenkamp stated, “Has there been justice for Reeva? Has Oscar served enough time? There can never be justice if your loved one is never coming back, and no amount of time served will bring Reeva back. We who remain behind are the ones serving a life sentence.”

“With the release of Oscar Pistorius on parole, my only desire is that I will be allowed to live my last years in peace with my focus remaining on the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation, to continue Reeva’s legacy.”

The Department of Corrections emphasized that Pistorius’ release, like all other parolees, does not signify the completion of his sentence.

Pistorius’ parole conditions include limitations on leaving his residence, a prohibition on alcohol consumption, and mandatory attendance at programs focusing on anger management and violence against women. Additionally, community service is required.

Regular meetings with parole officials and unannounced visits by authorities are also mandated. Pistorius is barred from leaving the Waterkloof district without permission and is forbidden from engaging with the media until his sentence concludes. Breaching any parole conditions could lead to his re-incarceration.

South Africa does not implement monitoring devices on parolees. However, the Department of Corrections confirmed that a parole official will continuously supervise Pistorius, who must inform the official of any significant life changes, such as seeking employment or changing residence.

Once affluent, Pistorius faced financial destitution following his prolonged murder trial, according to his lead defense attorney in 2014. He sold the house where he fatally shot Steenkamp to cover some of his legal expenses.

Steenkamp’s family did not contest his parole application in November. However, June Steenkamp stated at the time that she did not believe Pistorius had undergone complete rehabilitation and was still dishonest regarding the shooting.

Prior to the tragedy, Pistorius was perceived as an inspirational figure, having had both legs amputated below the knee as an infant due to a congenital condition. He achieved success as a champion sprinter on his carbon-fiber prosthetic blades, even competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.

His murder trial tarnished his image, with accusations of volatile behavior and reckless use of firearms. Witnesses testified about altercations he had with others, including an incident where he purportedly threatened to injure a man.

Initially convicted of culpable homicide akin to manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison, Pistorius had his sentence increased to murder after prosecutors appealed. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of Appeal did not definitively establish whether he was cognizant of Steenkamp’s presence behind the bathroom door.

Pistorius was initially incarcerated in 2014, placed under house arrest in 2015 during an appeal, and subsequently returned to prison in 2016. Initially detained at maximum-security Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria, he was later transferred to Atteridgeville due to its suitability for housing disabled inmates.

Reactions to Pistorius’ parole in South Africa have been subdued compared to the fervent protests following Steenkamp’s killing, demanding a lengthy prison term for Pistorius. The country does not have capital punishment.

“He has fulfilled all the necessary requirements,” remarked Themba Masango, secretary general of Not In My Name International, an organization advocating against violence towards women. “And we can only wish and hope Oscar Pistorius will emerge as a better human being.”

“We tend to forget that there is a possibility for someone to undergo rehabilitation.”

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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