Monday, June 24

Oscar Pistorius, Olympic Athlete Convicted of Murder, Is Released

Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete hailed as an inspirational figure until he was convicted of killing his girlfriend, was released on parole on Friday after more than seven years in prison.

Mr. Pistorius quietly left a Pretoria prison, away from the public glare that characterized his high-profile trial nearly a decade ago, and the subsequent stop-start legal proceedings that continued until his parole hearing last November.

Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said in a statement released just after 8:30 a.m. local time that Mr. Pistorius was “now at home.” The authorities declined to disclose further details about his release, including when or how he had left the prison.

Mr. Pistorius was granted parole on the basis that he had served half of a 15-year sentence for murder. In 2013, Mr. Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through a locked bathroom door before dawn, killing her.

The trial, which was televised, spanned seven months. Audiences heard the testimony of almost 40 witnesses and watched as Mr. Pistorius sobbed in the South African courtroom.

This week, the South African authorities emphasized that Mr. Pistorius’s “elevated public profile” would not afford him any special treatment. The authorities forbade him to speak to reporters, in line with regulations restricting media interactions.

“Inmates and parolees are never paraded,” the department said in a statement.

Mr. Pistorius will be under parole supervision until 2029, when his sentence officially ends. Now 37, he is expected to live with his family, and must remain in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital. He must also attend rehabilitation programs and is barred from consuming alcohol or any banned substances, the department said.

The Steenkamp family, who had expressed opposition to his release before reversing course, said they took comfort in his parole conditions, including that he is required to attend programs on gender-based violence and anger management.

The family was subjected to intense public scrutiny after the killing of their daughter, and June Steenkamp, Ms. Steenkamp’s mother, said she hoped the release of Mr. Pistorius would bring some respite.

“The intensity of the coverage of Oscar’s trial, imprisonment and parole has been a double-edged sword,” June Steenkamp said in a statement that was issued shortly after his release.

Although the parole decision fell within South Africa’s incarceration regulations, some groups said his freedom had come too soon. Before Mr. Pistorius’s release, a gender rights group that highlights South Africa’s high rates of violence against women resurfaced some of the evidence used against Mr. Pistorius during his trial.

The group, Women for Change, created an image of a text message from Ms. Steenkamp to Mr. Pistorius that the prosecution had used as evidence. “I’m scared of you sometimes, of how you snap at me,” the message read.

The group also publicly opposed Mr. Pistorius’s parole bid last year.

“Oscar Pistorius is a murderer and he belongs behind bars to serve his full sentence,” it said on social media this week — a message that Bulelwa Adonis, a spokeswoman for the group, said was intended “to serve as a reminder to society of who Oscar was.”

The tortuous legal case began in 2013, after the shooting in the early hours of Valentine’s Day. That morning, Mr. Pistorius had shot Ms. Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door at his home in an upscale Pretoria security estate.

The former athlete maintained that her death was an accident and that he had mistaken her for an intruder. Prosecutors argued that he had killed Ms. Steenkamp in a jealous rage after an argument, pointing to her text messages as evidence of a volatile relationship.

A judge initially convicted Mr. Pistorius of manslaughter, but prosecutors appealed, and his conviction was upgraded to murder. An appeals court increased his sentence from six to 15 years, the minimum recommended by South African law for unpremeditated murder.

In March last year, a parole board denied his bid, saying that the authorities had incorrectly credited him with having served the minimum required period of detention. Mr. Pistorius’s lawyers took up the decision with the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest decision-making body, and it ruled in his favor, citing a misinterpretation of when his sentence for murder had begun.

The Steenkamp family initially opposed his bid for parole, on the grounds that they believed he had deliberately killed their daughter. In November, after hearing that Mr. Pistorius would be released, June Steenkamp did not oppose his parole bid, although she publicly questioned whether he was truly rehabilitated.

Before his conviction, Mr. Pistorius was lauded for his domination as a Paralympic athlete — he was born without fibulas, so doctors amputated his legs before his first birthday — and for his determination to compete beyond Paralympic events. Nicknamed the Blade Runner for the carbon fiber prosthetic blades he used to run, he also had a slew of lucrative endorsements.

By age 17, Mr. Pistorius had won gold medals in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. The world’s governing body for track and field rejected his bid to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he fought for the ability to run and became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, running the 400 meters at the 2012 London Games.