A South African magistrate Friday granted bail for Oscar Pistorius, 26, the double amputee track star accused of murdering his girlfriend in a case that riveted the nation.
Bail was set at 1 million rand ($112,803) and a court date was set for June 4. Pistorius has been ordered to surrender his passport and refrain from contact with any witnesses for the prosecution, USA Today reports.
He is not allowed to use prohibited substances or alcohol and is subject to testing, the judge said.
"The issue is not guilt but whether the interests of justice (are served) in relation to bail," Nair said. "I am not seized with finding beyond reasonable doubt whether he committed premeditated murder…At this stage, I have to examine the facts the state has presented – all the state has right now is circumstantial evidence."
Magistrate Desmond Nair heard impassioned final arguments between defense and prosecution in Courtroom C of the Pretoria Magistrates Court. An emotional Pistorius had testified that he mistook his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, for an intruder and never intended to kill her.
Nair reprised the four days of conflicting arguments by defense and prosecution lawyers. He took issue with the testimony and actions of the prosecution's lead investigator, Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, who has since been removed from that position.
Nair said Botha committed "several errors and concessions" and "blundered" in gathering evidence.
Nair added, "It can never be said the Warrant Officer Botha is the state case. It is his evidence that may have been tarnished by cross-examination, not the state case," he said. At the same time, the state case was not "so strong and watertight" that Pistorius "must come to the conclusion that he has to flee."
During a two-hour summary of the case and of laws governing bail, the magistrate read a series of character references from friends of Pistorius who said they knew him and his relationship with Steenkamp, a model and law school graduate. They were described as a loving, happy couple.
The prosecution had opposed Pistorius's application to be released on bail until a full trial, arguing he might flee and that he committed premeditated murder when he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door at his home. Steenkamp was on the other side of that door in the early hours of Valentine's Day, February 14.
Pistorius underwent double amputation as an infant after being born without fibula bones. He has argued he believed the person on the other side of the door was an intruder and that he had shouted out to Steenkamp, who he believed was in bed, to call police. He then grabbed a gun, hobbled from his bed, and fired four shots.
Magistrate Nair said Pistorius did not represent a "flight risk, and was not likely to interfere with state witnesses. He said that while the prosecution case rested on "nothing more than circumstantial evidence," there were "improbabilities that need to be explored" in Pistorius's account of events.
"The accused has made a case to be released on bail," the magistrate concluded. Pistorius family members packed the courtroom and shouted: "Yes!"
"The only person who knows what happened there is the accused," he said. "But I cannot find that it has been established that the accused is a flight risk." He cited legal requirements that the defense must establish "exceptional circumstances" to qualify for bail in cases of premeditated murder.
As Pistorius's shoulders shook with emotion and tears fell from his eyes, Nair said, "The deceased died in his arms."
Premeditated murder is the most serious charge under South African criminal law. It carries a mandatory life sentence with parole in 25 years at the latest.
Pistorius is one of the world's most renowned athletes, whose distinctive carbon-fiber running blades inspired the nickname 'Blade Runner.' He became a global Paralympic champion and the first Paralympic sprinter to compete against able-bodied runners in the 2012 London Olympics.
He was forced to cancel races in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the US between March and May. Two of his American sponsors, Nike and sunglasses maker Oakley, announced they were dropping Pistorius from their advertising campaigns, which have earned him millions of dollars in endorsements. French cosmetics firm Clarins said on Wednesday it was suspending a fragrance advertising campaign featuring Pistorius.