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Oscar Pistorius released from prison a day early

Release: Oscar Pistorius
Release: Oscar Pistorius

Olympic double-amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius, jailed for shooting dead his girlfriend, has been released from prison and put under house arrest, a day earlier than expected.

Manelisi Wolela, a spokesman for South Africa's correctional services department, said the man known as the "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre running blades, who shot Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, was under "correctional supervision".

Pistorius, 28, was released from Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in the South African capital Pretoria, where he served nearly a year of his five-year sentence for manslaughter.

A parole board at the prison made the decision for the runner to be put under house arrest.

It came after an initial ruling to release the athlete from prison in August was cancelled at the last minute after intervention by the justice minister.

The correctional services department had originally said Pistorius would be released from the Pretoria jail on Tuesday in line with a decision by a parole board at the prison.

"The handling of the actual placement is an operational matter of the local management, and how they handle it is their prerogative that is carried out in the best interest of all parties concerned, the victims, the offender and the Department of Correction Services," Mr Wolela said.

Pistorius' murder trial generated intense international interest and the surprising decision to release him a day early, and at night, appeared to have avoided the logistical challenges and spectacle associated with a large gathering of TV crews and other journalists hoping to catch a glimpse of the athlete on the way out of prison.

While out on bail during his trial, Pistorius had stayed at his uncle's mansion in a wealthy suburb of Pretoria. But an Associated Press journalist outside the house last night said no one had gone in or out of the main entrance of the house.

Under South African law, an offender sentenced to five years or less in jail can be released after serving one-sixth of the term - in Pistorius' case, 10 months.

Pistorius was acquitted of murder last year but prosecutors have appealed against the trial verdict of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, and will seek a murder conviction again at South Africa's Supreme Court on November 3.

If Pistorius is convicted of murder by a panel of five judges at the appeal, he faces going back to prison for 15 years, the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa, which no longer has the death penalty.

Pistorius has maintained he thought Ms Steenkamp was an intruder in his Pretoria home and killed her by mistake. Prosecutors said he shot her intentionally during an argument after she had fled to the bathroom.

While under house arrest, Pistorius will have to live under certain conditions until his sentence ends on October 20 2019. He will have to continue receiving psychotherapy and cannot handle any firearms, the corrections department previously said.

Mr Wolela had not ruled out ultimately allowing Pistorius to return to training. He also said Pistorius would not be required to wear an electronic tagging device.

Pistorius gained worldwide fame when he ran against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, the first amputee runner to compete at the Games.