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Pistorius team fail to halt appeal

Oscar Pistorius's lawyers have failed in their attempt to stop prosecutors appealing against the double-amputee athlete's negligent killing conviction.

Judge Thokozile Masipa dismissed their application to challenge the appeal by prosecutors, who want Pistorius convicted of the more serious charge of murder for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva, Steenkamp, multiple times in a bathroom in his home on Valentine's Day in 2013.

"The order that I grant in this matter is to strike off the application," the black-robed Judge Masipa said in her ruling today, dismissing the defence's application.

In December, Judge Masipa granted prosecutors permission to take the case to South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal and challenge her own ruling to acquit Pistorius of murder and find him guilty instead of a lesser charge comparable to manslaughter. Pistorius's lawyers were arguing that the judge should not have allowed that appeal.

The Olympian and multiple Paralympic champion is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide, or negligent killing. The 28-year-old could be eligible for release from the jail in the capital, Pretoria, in August to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

If prosecutors succeed in their appeal against the culpable homicide conviction in the Supreme Court of Appeal and have it upgraded to murder, Pistorius would face a minimum of 15 years in jail.

Judge Masipa, who presided over Pistorius's seven-month murder trial and the start of the appeal process by prosecutors, made her latest ruling after a short court session in Johannesburg. Pistorius's trial was held in another courthouse in Pretoria.

The judge heard arguments by Barry Roux, Pistorius's chief defence lawyer at trial, and Gerrie Nel, the chief prosecutor.

Mr Roux argued that prosecutors had "mistakenly" been given permission to appeal against Judge Masipa's initial trial verdict. Mr Nel said there was no basis for the application by the defence, which wanted a "never-ending case" to prevent it from going to the appeal court.

Pistorius's trial now looks set to be reviewed by a panel of judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal, which sits in the central city of Bloemfontein. No date has been given for that appeal but cases can sometimes take two years to reach the court, legal experts have said.

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