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Oscar Pistorius’ murder sentence more than doubled by South African court

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Oscar Pistorius arrives for the final verdict at North Gauteng High Court on Sept. 12, 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius’s sentence was more than doubled by a South African court, putting it at 13 years and five months in jail. (Whitehotpix/Zuma Press/TNS)
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Paralympian Oscar Pistorius will serve 13 years and five months in jail — more than double his original six-year sentence — after a South African court sided with prosecutors who said the original sentence had been too lenient.

“The appeal against sentence is upheld. … The respondent is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 13 years and five months,” Judge Willie Seriti said, prompting audible gasps from the audience in the courtroom.

The 31-year-old sprinter, who was not present during the ruling, should have been sentenced to 15 years, Seriti said, but noted that the court took into account the time Pistorius had already served.

The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years.

“I am of the view that there are no substantial and compelling circumstances which can justify the departure from the prescribed minimum sentence,” the judge added.

“The (previous) sentence of six years’ imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivializing this serious offence,” Seriti added.

The state prosecution had appealed the sentence earlier this month, saying that Pistorius’ punishment was too lenient.

The family of Reeva Steenkamp, the model Pistorius murdered in 2013, said the new sentence had restored justice for them.

“The Steenkamp family feels that their faith in the justice system was confirmed today. And there has been justice for Reeva. She can now rest in peace,” the family’s lawyer, Tania Koen, told dpa.

“At the same time, although it means a small form of closure … there will never be complete closure because they still miss her every day and they still mourn her loss every day,” Koen added.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel added that “through this process … it must now be clear that we are all equal before the court.”

Pistorius’ brother, Carl, said on Twitter that he was “Shattered. Heartbroken. Gutted” in response to the ruling.

In 2015, in a case that gripped South Africa and the world, Pistorius was found guilty of the Valentine’s Day murder of his girlfriend, Steenkamp.

The prosecution had argued that Pistorius’ disability should not have been a mitigating factor and that the athlete, who wept regularly throughout the trial, had not shown genuine remorse, but rather felt sorry for himself and regretted his actions.

The South African double-amputee sprinter, known as the “Blade Runner,” maintains he believed Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her through the bathroom door.

It was the second time the prosecution had appealed. Pistorius was originally found guilty of culpable homicide with a five-year jail term, but this was changed to murder on appeal.

Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated because of a congenital defect, soared to international fame after becoming the first amputee to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.

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