PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius can leave South Africa to compete in international track meets, a judge ruled today as he upheld the Olympic athlete's appeal against some of his bail restrictions.
Judge Bert Bam said that Pistorius, who is charged with murder in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, can travel under certain conditions. His passport will be held by a court while he is in South Africa, and he can leave the country only if he provides an itinerary of his travel plans at least a week before he is scheduled to leave. Pistorius must also hand his travel documents back to the court within 24 hours of returning home.
The ruling in North Gauteng High Court opens the way for the Paralympic champion, who is facing a life sentence if found guilty of murder, to run in international competition again.
Although Pistorius' attorneys said in the appeal hearing that he had no immediate plans to compete, he likely will need to return to track in the future to earn money, they said. Pistorius himself, a double amputee widely known as the Blade Runner for his prosthetic legs, did not attend the court session.
"He has no desire to compete now, but it might change and it will change," defense attorney Barry Roux told Bam in arguing for some of Pistorius' bail restrictions to be eased. Roux said Pistorius would not try to evade trial if he is allowed to travel internationally.
"He is not going to run away and hide. He is going nowhere," Roux told the judge. "Why stop him from traveling under controlled circumstances?" Roux added.
Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp accidentally when he fired shots through a door in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours, fearing there was an intruder in his house. Prosecutors say he shot the model and reality TV star intentionally after they argued, and they have charged him with premeditated murder.
The judge also ruled in favor of Pistorius on three other conditions. He no longer has to be regularly supervised by a probation official, and a ban against him drinking alcohol was lifted.
Bam also slammed one of the bail conditions imposed by another judge, saying that a condition that he would be in breach of his bail if he was accused of another crime against women was "fraud." It went against Pistorius' constitutional right to be innocent until proven guilty, and being accused of a crime should not count against him, Bam said in a ruling that came three hours after the hearing began.