A South African judge has ruled that prosecutors can appeal against the acquittal on murder charges of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.

The double amputee was jailed for five years in October for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said prosecutors could appeal against the acquittal, but not the five-year sentence given for the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Pistorius' lawyers had opposed the appeal request.

The case will now go before South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal.

'Public interest irrelevant'

The athlete's father Henke Pistorius said it "should not have gone this far", AFP news agency reports.

"Oscar is strong, he has to be strong, he grew up like that. There's lots of things in life, especially for a man like him that is… not fair," he is quoted as saying.

Prosecutors argued that Judge Masipa misinterpreted the law when she cleared Pistorius of murder on the basis that he did not intentionally shoot Ms Steenkamp.

South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius waits before his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa on 16 October 2014
Oscar Pistorius was not in court on Wednesday
Oscar Pistorius's father Henke Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, on 10 December 2014
His father said the athlete was "strong" in prison

Judge Masipa granted the appeal in the ruling in a Pretoria court on Wednesday.

"I cannot say… that the prospect of success at the Supreme Court of Appeal is remote," she said.

However, Judge Masipa dismissed the prosecution's argument that the sentence should be reviewed because Ms Steenkamp's parents had been extremely dissatisfied with it.

She also said the public interest in the case was "irrelevant" and she had ruled only on the basis of the prosecutors' case.

Outlining his case on Tuesday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the sentence was "shockingly inappropriate and does not fit the crime and the accused".

Pistorius could be eligible for parole and house arrest after serving 10 months of his five-year sentence.

He will remain in prison while the appeal process takes place.

 A file photograph showing Reeva Steenkamp in South Africa on 27 June 2012Reeva Steenkamp had been going out with Pistorius for three months before the fatal shooting
Gerrie Nel in court on 9 December 2014
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in his application to appeal that the judgement was "shockingly inappropriate"

Prosecution spokesman Nathi Mncube welcome the judge's ruling on Wednesday but said prosecutors would still attempt to challenge the sentence.

The prosecution had called for the maximum 15-year sentence for culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

Ms Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, was shot dead at Pistorius' home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. He said he feared there was an intruder.

Pistorius was acquitted by Judge Masipa of both premeditated murder and the lesser murder charge of dolus eventualis, also known as common-law murder.

In South African law, this charge applies if the accused knew they might kill someone but still went ahead with their course of action.

Pistorius is serving the sentence in the hospital wing of Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II prison.

The appeal is likely to be heard next year.


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