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South African track star Oscar Pistorius granted bail

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Pretoria, Feb 22 (EFE).- The judge at the Pretoria Magistrates' Court on Friday granted the bail application of South African track star Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend.

In his ruling following a week-long hearing, Judge Desmond Nair found that the disabled athlete was not a flight risk and that the prosecution had not shown that the defendant has a propensity for violence, among other reasons.

He fixed bail for the 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, known as the "Blade Runner" because of the high-tech, carbon-fiber prosthetics he wears on both legs during his races, at 1 million rand (roughly $113,000).

The athlete was freed under a set of conditions, including the surrender of his passport and his firearms.

Supporters of Pistorius in the courthouse shouted "Yes!" when they heard the decision, which enables the celebrity to avoid being housed pending trial in the notoriously grim and violent Pretoria Central Prison.

The athlete had been jailed since Feb. 14, when his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds at Pistorius' home in the South African capital.

Lead defense attorney Barry Roux argued in court Thursday that his client fired gunshots at the toilet door of his 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 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 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.

The judge earlier this week accepted the prosecution's premeditated murder charge, but said Friday that it had not shown its case was so airtight that the defendant would not want to have his day in court.

Pistorius gained international fame last year when he competed against able-bodied athletes at the London Games' 400-meters and 4 x 400-meter-relay events, becoming the first double-amputee track athlete to race in the Olympics.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/taxonomy/term/35779/130226/south-african-track-star-oscar-pistorius-granted-bail