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article imagePistorius appeal verdict due Thursday

By Ben Sheppard (AFP)     Dec 1, 2015 in Crime

South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal will announce Thursday its verdict on a bid by state prosecutors to have Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder and sent back to jail for shooting dead his girlfriend.

The star Paralympic sprinter was found guilty last year of the lesser crime of culpable homicide -- the equivalent to manslaughter -- for killing Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day, 2013.

Pistorius, who said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he opened fire with his pistol, was released from prison on parole in October after serving one year of his five-year sentence.

"The judgement will be delivered at 09:45 on 3 December," the court registrar said in a brief emailed statement on Tuesday.

At the crux of the appeal case was how trial judge Thokozile Masipa interpreted the principle of "dolus eventualis" -- awareness of the likely outcome of an action -- under which she acquitted Pistorius of murder.

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius crosses the line to win gold in the men's 400m - T44 final ...
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius crosses the line to win gold in the men's 400m - T44 final at the London 2012 Paralympics on September 8, 2012
Ben Stansall, AFP/File

At a one-day hearing at the court in South Africa's judicial capital of Bloemfontein in November, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius intended to kill whoever was behind the locked toilet door through which he fired four bullets.

The five appeal judges could alter the original trial verdict and send the case back to the high court for a new sentence.

They could also uphold the verdict, or order a retrial.

- Fallen idol -

If Pistorius, 29, is found guilty of murder, he would face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

He may also make his own appeal to South Africa's Constitutional Court -- the country's highest court.

But defence lawyers say he can not afford further legal battles, having already paid huge legal bills.

A picture taken on January 26  2013 shows Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenk...
A picture taken on January 26, 2013 shows Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg
Waldo Swiegers, AFP/File

"Mrs (June) Steenkamp will attend (on Thursday)," Tania Koen, a lawyer representing the victim's family, told AFP.

"She is full of confidence in the court."

Pistorius, who will not be present when the verdict is delivered, was released on October 19 to spend the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle's mansion in the capital Pretoria.

He shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, at the peak of his fame, following his historic performance in London in 2012 when he became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level.

In the aftermath of the killing, the Paralympic gold medallist lost his glittering sports career, lucrative contracts and status as a global role model for the disabled.

His release after serving one-sixth of his sentence was in line with normal treatment of South African convicts, but was criticised by women's rights groups and many others in the country.

Last month he made his first appearance in public since leaving jail when he reported for community service at a police station in Pretoria.

His parole conditions have not been made public, but are reported to require him to meet with Steenkamp's parents if they wish.

The Department of Correctional Services has also said Pistorius would undergo "continued psychotherapy" and face restrictions on owning firearms.

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