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Bail decision for "Blade Runner" postponed

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Pretoria, Feb 21 (EFE).- The judge hearing the case of South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius, who stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, has put off a decision on whether to release him on bail.

At the close of the third day of the bail hearing here for Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner" because of the high-tech, carbon-fiber prosthetics he wears on both legs during his races, Judge Desmond Nair postponed until Friday a decision on whether to allow the athlete to go free pending trial.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued Thursday against releasing the defendant, saying he is a flight risk and poses a threat to others because of his alleged violent character.

Nel referred to three past incidents involving the athlete, who is accused of premeditated murder, in which he allegedly threatened other people with phrases such as "I'll break your legs."

Pistorius' defense team shrugged off the threatening words, saying they were common expressions that should not be interpreted literally.

The judge earlier this week accepted the prosecution's premeditated murder charge but also said he could downgrade it at the end of the bail hearing depending on the evidence.

If the premeditated murder charge sticks, the defense team for the defendant - who gained international fame last year when he competed against able-bodied athletes at the London Olympics' 400-meters and 4 x 400-meter relay events - would have to show an "exceptional" reason why he should be released pending trial.

Lead defense attorney Barry Roux argued again in court Thursday that his client fired gunshots at the toilet door of his Pretoria home in the wee hours of Valentine's Day because he believed there was an intruder inside and that he was in grave danger.

He said Pistorius's girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp - who was inside the toilet, a small room inside Pistorius's bathroom, at the time - was shot and killed in a tragic accident.

In an affidavit released this week, Pistorius said that he was seized by terror after hearing strange noises in the bathroom and did not notice that Steenkamp was not in bed because he was too afraid to turn on the light.

He said it was only after firing the gunshots and turning on the light and realizing Steenkamp was not in bed that it occurred to him that she might have been the person in the toilet room.

Pistorius said he then broke down the door with a cricket bat and tried to revive his girlfriend but that she died in his arms.

Nel once again on Thursday called on the lead police investigator in the case, Hilton Botha, one of the first to arrive at Pistorius' house after the incident, to testify as a witness.

Botha appeared before the judge after police confirmed that he is facing seven charges of attempted murder for a 2011 incident in which he allegedly fired at a mini-van carrying seven passengers in an attempt to halt the vehicle.

On Thursday, at the end of the third day of the bail hearing, the police announced that Botha had been removed from Pistorius's case.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/taxonomy/term/35779/130226/bail-decision-blade-runner-postponed