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Pistorius pleads not guilty to all charges

Oscar Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include a murder charge.

Oscar Pistorius is escorted into the High Court in Pretoria on the first day of his trial for murder. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

PRETORIA - Proceedings have officially begun in the Oscar Pistorius trial, with prosecutor Gerrie Nel calling the state's first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.

Before Nel read the admissions into record, Pistorius's defence team led by advocate Kenny Oldwage read a plea explanation on behalf of his client.

When proceedings began, Nel read out the charges and Pistorius pleaded not guilty to each of them, which included a charge of murder and three other gun-related charges.

Speaking via Oldwage, Pistorius denies murdering Steenkamp in the strongest terms saying at the time of the "tragic accident" they were in a loving relationship.

"I mistakenly believed that Reeva was an intruder, and posed an imminent threat to me and Reeva."

He also disputes a neighbour's claims that she could hear an argument between him and Steenkamp.

Pistorius submits that the state has conceded on certain facts related to his location in the bathroom and whether he was on his stumps.

Pistorius says the scene was contaminated, disturbed and tampered with.

He says his legal counsel will object to the state's attempt to lead inadmissible character evidence.

He also believes the state will attempt to admit evidence in an attempt to assassinate his character.

Oldwage concluded, entering the plea explanation into the record and Pistorius confirmed what was read.

Nel has told the court he will read the admissions into the record.

The legal battle is being described as the trial of the decade.

DELAY

The trial began 1 hour and 30 minutes behind schedule.

Officials said Judge Thokozile Masipa was ready, but there was a problem with one interpreter.

A court official addressed the public gallery saying that a problem with an Afrikaans-to-English interpreter had delayed proceedings, but this was being addressed.

It's understood the prosecution and the defence met the judge in her chambers.

Earlier, a woman known only as Annamarie attempted to disrupt the trial, saying she would lodge an application for the matter to be postponed.

This woman had made similar attempts during the bail application last year and the media access hearing last week.

Court security and police orderlies eventually led Annamarie out of the courtroom, but she told reporters she would speak to the judge.

Prior to the disruption, both the legal teams for the defence and prosecution appeared ready.

Pistorius had taken up his seat in the dock, while his relatives including his Uncle Arnold, brother Carl and sister Aimee sat behind him.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother June, her daughter Simone and the family's lawyers are seated in the gallery behind the prosecution team.

COURT ROOM FILLED TO CAPACITY

Pistorius arrived at the courthouse at around 09:50am by slipping past most of the media scrum outside the building.

Journalists, police and ordinary members of the public lined the streets ahead of his arrival.

Family members, high-profile witnesses and legal experts arrived to a crowded court room earlier.

June arrived to what will be her first encounter with Pistorius after her daughter's death.

Pistorius's sister Aimee and brother Carl were also seen entering the court.

Investigating officer Mike van Aardt arrived with Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo and were followed by pathologist Professor Gert Saayman who conducted the autopsy on Steenkamp.

There's still a massive security presence at the High Court in Pretoria and the rain has not stopped people from gathering outside the court.

STATE-OF-THE-ART-TECH BEING USED

For the first time in SA history, high-tech equipment is broadcasting the trial live from inside the High Court in Pretoria.

A sniffer dog had earlier swept the building and traffic police are controlling access to the court.

Multichoice and Eyewitness News obtained a court order last week granting the media permission to broadcast the trial.

Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp at his Pretoria home last year, and while he claims it was a case of mistaken identity, the state will argue it was murder.

Three small, unmanned high-definition spy cameras fitted in the back of the court, and to the left and right of the judge, will provide a full view of the room.

This state-of-the-art technology is a first that no other courtroom in the country has seen before.

The camera zoom and angles are managed from a control room outside the court, but the judge also has a switch to stop the feed if she believes it necessary.

The front rows of benches have been reserved for friends and family of both Pistorius and Steenkamp.

Three rows will seat 80 journalists, both local and international.

'TOP-NOTCH' DEFENCE TEAM HIRED

The Paralympian's defence team has hired top local and international forensic experts to prove to the court that his version of events is the truth.

The results of forensic ballistic, post-mortem, cellphone and other scientific evidence could prove to be crucial to the case.

Pistorius's legal team will call its own witnesses to dispute the forensic evidence put forward by prosecutors.

Antony Altbeker, who wrote a book about the Fred van der Vyver and Inge Lotz case in which the forensics were crucial, believes this could entrench perceptions that wealth buys justice in South Africa.

"I think if someone without those resources was arrested in these circumstances, they would struggle to persuade anybody they were not guilty of murder and we wouldn't be talking about it, the case would be heard already."

Wits University law Professor Stephen Tuson, however, says money does make a difference.

"There's no doubt in my mind that money buys you a better quality of justice without exception.

Get all the latest developments on the EWN Oscar Pistorius portal here.

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