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Pistorius granted bail on murder charge

Pretoria, South Africa (Sports Network) - South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius was granted bail by a magistrate and won't have to remain in prison while awaiting trial on a charge of premeditated murder.

Pistorius had been jailed for more than a week since the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day.

Prosecutors had asked to have the double-amputee runner remain in custody without bail for fear of flight risk and a danger to the community.

The defense has argued that Pistorius believed he was shooting an intruder in his bathroom and mistakenly killed Steenkamp. Defense attorneys had also said Pistorius would be willing to surrender his passports and would pose no risk of fleeing to avoid the charge.

After a week of testimony and arguments in what turned into a mini-trial, South African Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair said Friday both sides failed to establish complete air-tight cases.

"It is practically impossible for the state, within the matter of a week, to have all the pieces of the puzzle," Nair said while taking more than 1 1/2 hours to detail his decision.

"The defense has failed to show this court that there is a weakness in the (state's) case," Nair stated. "The state cannot equally show that the state case is so strong and water tight that the applicant cannot come to the conclusion that he needs to flee and avoid the charge.

"I cannot find that it has been established that the accused is a flight risk. The accused does not show a propensity to commit violence.

"I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail."

Pistorius was released on 1 million rand (nearly $113,000 U.S.), including a cash payment of 100,000 rand. He was forced to surrender his passports and other travel papers, and cannot enter airports or possess firearms.

In addition, he must report to police twice a week, must be present at all court proceedings, must be available for contact from a probation officer at any time of day or night, and cannot return to the scene of the crime, meaning he will have to find a new home.

The next court date for Pistorius is June 4.

"Yes we are relieved Oscar received bail, but we are in mourning for the death of Reeva with her family," said Arnold Pistorius, Oscar's uncle, after the announcement. "As a family we know Oscar's version of what happened at that tragic night is the truth and that will prevail in the coming court case."

Oscar Pistorius said in an affidavit read in court Tuesday that Steenkamp was with him the night of the shooting. He said he heard a noise in the bathroom and, thinking it was an intruder, got his gun -- a 9-mm pistol he said he keeps under his bed. He said he fired shots through the door and told Steenkamp to call the police.

When he realized Steenkamp was not in bed with him, Pistorius thought it may have been her in the bathroom. He said he called paramedics and security officers in his building complex, and tried to carry her down the stairs for help. He said she died in his arms.

Prosecutors have countered that Pistorius knew Steenkamp was in the bathroom when he shot and killed her.

Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner," made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Games.

The 26-year-old Pistorius had both legs amputated before he was a year old after being born without fibula bones and runs on prosthetic blades.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had initially said that his prosthetics were considered technical aids and in violation of an IAAF rule. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport later overturned that decision, making him eligible to compete against able-bodied runners.

Pistorius qualified for South Africa's Olympic team in 2012 and competed in the 400-meter race, reaching the semifinals, and the 1,600-meter relay.

02/22 19:43:07 ET


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