Oscar Pistorius case: Judge Masipa allows appeal

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Media captionJudge Thokozile Masipa ruled that prosecutors can appeal against the culpable homicide conviction

A South African judge has ruled that prosecutors can appeal against the acquittal on murder charges of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.

The double amputee was jailed for five years in October for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said prosecutors could appeal against the acquittal, but not the five-year sentence given for the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Pistorius' lawyers had opposed the appeal request.

The case will now go before South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal.

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Media captionKey events in Oscar Pistorius' life - in 60 seconds

'Public interest irrelevant'

The athlete's father Henke Pistorius said it "should not have gone this far", AFP news agency reports.

"Oscar is strong, he has to be strong, he grew up like that. There's lots of things in life, especially for a man like him that is... not fair," he is quoted as saying.

Prosecutors argued that Judge Masipa misinterpreted the law when she cleared Pistorius of murder on the basis that he did not intentionally shoot Ms Steenkamp. Judge Masipa granted the appeal in the ruling in a Pretoria court on Wednesday.

"I cannot say... that the prospect of success at the Supreme Court of Appeal is remote," she said.

However, Judge Masipa dismissed the prosecution's argument that the sentence should be reviewed because Ms Steenkamp's parents had been extremely dissatisfied with it.

She also said the public interest in the case was "irrelevant" and she had ruled only on the basis of the prosecutors' case.

In court - By Pumza Fihlani, BBC News, Pretoria

Today was a big win for the state prosecutors. Although they lost their bid on the sentence, Judge Thokozile Masipa gave the go-ahead for them to appeal the conviction. This was always Gerrie Nel's main intention.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will now decide if the principles of law were applied correctly.

A panel of up to five judges has the power to not only overturn Judge Masipa's conviction but can also rule on a minimum sentence - which in the case of murder would be 15 years in prison.

Although the sentence appeal was denied, veteran advocate Mannie Witz told me that before the SCA this would make little difference. The appeal judges' power is such that they can also consider the sentence and find that the appeal should have been granted.

For Pistorius, this means the case is far from over and if the state has its way, the worst is yet to come.

Outlining his case on Tuesday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the sentence was "shockingly inappropriate and does not fit the crime and the accused".

Pistorius could be eligible for parole and house arrest after serving 10 months of his five-year sentence.

He will remain in prison while the appeal process takes place.

Image copyright AP
Image caption His father said the athlete was "strong" in prison
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Reeva Steenkamp had been going out with Pistorius for three months before the fatal shooting
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in his application to appeal that the judgement was "shockingly inappropriate"

Prosecution spokesman Nathi Mncube welcome the judge's ruling on Wednesday but said prosecutors would still attempt to challenge the sentence.

The prosecution had called for the maximum 15-year sentence for culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

Ms Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, was shot dead at Pistorius' home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. He said he feared there was an intruder.

Pistorius was acquitted by Judge Masipa of both premeditated murder and the lesser murder charge of dolus eventualis, also known as common-law murder.

In South African law, this charge applies if the accused knew they might kill someone but still went ahead with their course of action.

Pistorius is serving the sentence in the hospital wing of Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II prison.

The appeal is likely to be heard next year.

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