Pistorius says ‘no intention’ to kill girlfriend

Updated 20 February 2013
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Pistorius says ‘no intention’ to kill girlfriend

PRETORIA: South African Olympic hero Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday tearfully denied the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, telling a court he shot at her through a locked bathroom door believing she was an intruder.
“I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva,” Pistorius said in an affidavit at a court hearing in the capital Pretoria, his first public comments on the Valentine’s Day killing.
The 26-year-old double amputee track star broke down in tears repeatedly as his own words filled the court: “We were deeply in love and couldn’t be more happy.”
“I had no intention to kill my girlfriend,” he said in the statement, read out by his lawyer as Pistorius sat in the dock, struggling to hold his composure.
At one point the court was forced to break so the track star could get himself together.
“He’s definitely been broken,” his public relations manager Stuart Higgins said.
As the court hearing was under way, Steenkamp was being laid to rest at an emotional private ceremony at a crematorium in her hometown of Port Elizabeth.
The “Blade Runner” became an inspiration to millions when he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics.
He now faces a charge of premeditated murder, which will likely result in remand without bail and, if convicted, a life sentence behind bars.
Pistorius said the couple, who had been dating since late last year, had spent the evening at his upscale Pretoria home watching television and with the 29-year-old Steenkamp doing yoga.
He awoke in the dead of night to bring in a fan from the balcony when he heard a noise.
“Filled with horror and fear” that someone was in the bathroom, he said he felt “very vulnerable” because he did not have his prosthetic legs on.
“I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police.
“Reeva was not responding. When I reached the bed, I realized that Reeva was not in bed.
“That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet.”
After smashing the door with a cricket bat, Pistorius said “Reeva was slumped over but alive“
“I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.”
He said he kept a firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, under his bed at night because he had been a “victim of violence and burglaries before.”
He was not only acutely aware of intruders intending to commit violent crime but that “I have received death threats before.”
Prosecutors argued that far from being an accident, Steenkamp’s death was a premeditated act of murder.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court Pistorius had armed himself, put on his prosthetic legs, walked seven meters and fired four shots into the bathroom door, hitting a terrified Steenkamp three times and fatally wounding her.
“She could go nowhere,” Nel said. “She locked the door for a purpose. We will get to that purpose.”
There was no decision on bail Tuesday, with court proceedings adjourned until Wednesday.
Prosecution spokesman Medupe S’Maiku said the hearings could take all week.
Magistrate Desmond Nair said he could not rule out that there was some planning involved in the killing, which may be considered as a premeditated murder for the purposes of bail.
But Pistorius’s legal team rejected the claims as he sought to argue he was not a flight risk.
Pistorius revealed he earned 5.6 million rand ($640,000) a year and owned the $570,000 house in the gated estate where the killing took place and two other homes.
Lawyers submitted affidavits from friends of both Pistorius and Steenkamp, which spoke of the couple’s close relationship.
Pistorius, who off the track has a rocky private life of rash behavior, beautiful women, guns and fast cars, has built up a powerful team of lawyers, medical specialists and public relations experts for his defense.
In 2009 Pistorius — who once admitted to a newspaper that he slept with a pistol, machine gun, cricket bat and baseball bat for fear of burglars — spent a night in jail after allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a party.
Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth, tearful friends and family said goodbye to Steenkamp, whose cloth-draped coffin with white flowers laid on top was carried into a chapel in the southeastern coastal city where she grew up.
“There’s a space missing inside all of the people that she knew that can’t be filled again,” her brother Adam, who gave the eulogy, said after the ceremony. “We’ll miss her.”
A funeral program simply entitled “Reeva” bore the dates of her birth and death, and a black-and-white portrait of Steenkamp with the words “God’s Gift, A Child” written on the back.
Pistorius, a Paralympian gold-medallist, became the first double amputee to run against able-bodied athletes at last year’s Olympics in London on the carbon-fiber running blades that inspired his nickname.
But his career has been put on hold since the shooting, forcing him to cancel races in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the United States between March and May.
The case has shocked South Africa, where Pistorius is still considered by many to be a shining example of how individuals can triumph over adversity.
South Africa’s sports minister on Tuesday expressed shock and disbelief that the star has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend as the country battles epidemic levels of violence against women.
“None of our sporting heroes and heroines should be associated with such acts of violence against women and children,” said Fikile Mbalula.


US State Department imposes visa ban on several DRCongo officials

Updated 22 June 2018
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US State Department imposes visa ban on several DRCongo officials

  • The visa ban comes after the US Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila
  • Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the US, so the visa ban is an important step

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Thursday it had imposed visa bans on several senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo for corruption tied to the country’s electoral process to send a “strong signal” about the need for a peaceful transfer of power.
Washington declined to identify the individuals, saying it was not obligated to reveal them based on “foreign policy considerations.”
“Today’s actions send a strong signal that the US government is committed to fighting corruption, to supporting credible elections that lead to DRC’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power,” the State Department said.
The move comes before elections scheduled in DRC for Dec. 23. There are concerns, however, that President Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, could delay the vote to seek a third elected term.
The visa ban comes after the US Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila.
Sasha Lezhnev, deputy policy director at the nonprofit rights group Enough Project called Thursday’s visa ban an important step “to dissuade Kabila from putting his name on the ballot and help ensure a credible election.”
“Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the US, so the visa ban is an important step,” said Lezhnev. “They or the businesses they partner with also use US banks to process corrupt commercial deals, so the US and EU should enact stronger sanctions on their corporate networks to target their assets.”