South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha suspended Oscar Pistorius’s planned release from prison this week, ordering a parole review board to decide whether to allow the athlete to serve the rest of his five-year sentence under house arrest.
Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete at an Olympic Games, was due to be paroled on Aug. 21 after spending 10 months in jail for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day two years ago. A womens’ activist group had petitioned the minister to request a review of the decision.
In their petition, the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa said the decision of the parole board was “outrageous” and “an insult” to victims of abuse. The group especially criticized Pistorius’ release during August, which is women’s month in South Africa and a time when issues including domestic violence against women are highlighted
He was approved by a parole board to serve the remainder under house arrest. The board approved Pistorius because of his good behaviour in prison, the Department of Corrections said when announcing its decision two months ago.
That decision to release Pistorius was made prematurely when the parole board met on June 5, because he had not served a sixth of his sentence as required by law, the justice ministry said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.
Pistorius, 28, was eligible for release under South African law, which allows offenders given a prison sentence of five years or less to move to correctional supervision after they have served one-sixth of their sentence.
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 ministry said. The decision to release Pistorius is suspended until the Parole Review Board has decided on the matter.
Anneliese Burgess, a spokesman for Pistorius, couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by phone.
Pistorius testified that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder in his home.
The family of Steenkamp, who would have turned 32 Wednesday, were
celebrating her life, what she stood for and the joy she brought into so many lives, according to a statement e-mailed by their attorney, Tania Koen. We are still struggling with coming to terms with losing our precious daughter.
Pistorious faces a Supreme Court appeal in November, when prosecutors will ask a panel of judges to overturn the initial trial verdict and convict Pistorius of murder. Murder carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in jail in South Africa, which doesn’t have the death penalty.