South African justice minister blocks Pistorius parole

Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:39pm EDT
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By Peroshni Govender

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Oscar Pistorius will not be freed on parole this Friday because the decision to do so was made without the right legal basis, South Africa's justice minister said on Wednesday, shocking the athlete's family as they prepared for his homecoming.

The former Paralympics gold medalist had been expected to be released after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence for killing his model and law graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the parole board had wrongly taken a decision to release Pistorius on parole before the athlete had served a sixth of his sentence, as required by law.

"It is therefore clear that there is no legal basis upon which such a decision was made ... one sixth of a five-year sentence is 10 months and at the time the decision was made Mr. Pistorius had served only over six months of his sentence," Masutha said in a statement.

"I came to the conclusion that the board had erred in sitting and considering his application for parole before the minimum period that he is required to serve under the relevant provision had lapsed," Masutha said on Talk Radio 702.

The minister said he had received a petition from the Progressive Women's Movement of South Africa opposing Pistorius' release on parole, saying it flouted the rules.

Ulrich Roux, a prominent criminal defense lawyer, said the minister's decision was "procedurally correct" but its timing was "bizarre".

"The eyes of the whole world are on South Africa and this certainly isn't a good reflection on our department of correctional services."   Continued...

South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock as his sentence is delivered at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria October 21, 2014.   REUTERS/Herman Verwey/Pool