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March 28, 2013

Pistorius allowed to leave South Africa with conditions

— PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius can leave South Africa to compete in international track meets, a judge ruled on Thursday as he upheld the Olympic athlete's appeal against some of his bail restrictions.

Judge Bert Bam said Pistorius, who is charged with murder in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, must travel under certain conditions. His passport will be held by a court while he is in South Africa, and he can only leave the country if he provides an itinerary of his travel plans at least a week before he is due 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' lawyers said in the appeal hearing that he had no immediate plans to compete, he would likely 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 lawyer Barry Roux told Bam in arguing for some of Pistorius' bail restrictions to be eased. Roux said Pistorius would not try and evade trial if he is allowed to travel internationally, and would eventually need to run again "to earn an income."

"He is not going to run away and hide. He is going nowhere," Roux told the judge in the brown-walled courtroom in the high court, where television cameras and photographers were allowed in to record the proceedings. "Why stop him from traveling under controlled circumstances?" Roux added.

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