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Oscar Pistorius's lawyers fight to keep him out of jail

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother had earlier said that she believed his sentence was too short.

Updated 13.00pm

AN APPEAL ON whether athlete Oscar Pistorius should be convicted of murder instead of culpable homicide has been heard in South Africa today.

Oscar Pistorius’s lawyers fought to keep him from returning to jail as state prosecutors argued for a murder conviction in a combative appeal hearing held just two weeks after he was released.

During sharp exchanges between his lawyer and the five judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, the killing was again re-lived in front of a packed courthouse that included Steenkamp’s mother June.

At the crux of the appeal was how the trial judge, Thokozile Masipa, interpreted the principle of dolus eventualis — awareness of the likely outcome of an action — under which she acquitted Pistorius of murder.

“(Judge Thokozile Masipa’s) analysis of doluseventualis seems to me to be wrong,” Judge Eric Leach said.

“When he fired the bullets, did he know there was somebody behind the door?”We’re talking about intent.”

Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux battled back, arguing that the original trial verdict could not be challenged on its factual findings.

“(The judge) was saying: ‘I cannot find it under dolus eventualis…because myfactual finding is that when he fired the shots thinking it was an intruder he genuinely believed the deceased was in the bedroom’.”He genuinely believed he was in danger and that’s why he fired.”

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius should be convicted of murder as he intentionally meant to kill whoever was behind the toilet door into which he fired four bullets.

“Firing through the door at torso level into a small cubicle the foresight must be that someone would die,” Nel said.

Mother of Reeva Steenkamp

Earlier today, the mother of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead by Oscar Pistorius, said the athlete should have spent longer in prison for the killing of her daughter.

June Steenkamp was speaking to Sky News.

She told Sky News that Pistorius has “been in jail for 11 months and it’s too short a time for taking someone’s life”, adding that “he has to face the truth… it’s justice for Reeva”.

2012 South African Sports Awards - Sandton Convention Centre

The state lawyers have described the sentence as “shockingly light, inappropriate” and said “not enough emphasis was placed on the horrendous manner” in which Steenkamp died.

A panel of five judges heard today’s arguments from the state and defence, with the proceedings scheduled to last one day.

South Africa Pistorius Trial June Steenkamp Source: Themba Hadebe

The court concluded the appeal hearing before lunch, saying it reserved judgement on the case without giving a date when its decision would be announced.

Pistorius, who has not been seen in public since his release, will not attend the hearing, family spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess told AFP.

South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

If the judges uphold the state’s appeal and find Pistorius guilty of murder, he could have just 48 hours to prepare for a return to prison.

Pistorius may also make his own appeal to South Africa’s Constitutional Court — the country’s highest court.

But defence lawyer Barry Roux previously said Pistorius could not afford further legal battles, having already paid huge legal bills.

- With reporting from AFP

Read: Oscar Pistorius has been released from prison a day early>

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