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Pistorius team to begin his defense

PRETORIA, South Africa — The trial of Oscar Pistorius was scheduled to resume on Monday as the defense begins to lay out its case that the double amputee track star killed his girlfriend in a tragic error and should not go to jail for murder.

Pistorius, 27, who competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012, faces a minimum 25-year sentence if he is convicted of premeditated murder in the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, a glamorous model and law graduate, on Feb. 14, 2013.

He has denied the charge, saying he believed he was shooting at an intruder in his luxurious home when he fired four rounds from a handgun through a bathroom door, only to discover that Steenkamp, 29, was locked inside.

The runner may take the stand for the first time on Monday. News reports said the defense planned to call a pathologist, Jan Botha, as its first witness.

The case has been held up by the illness of a judicial assessor — one of two officials assisting Judge Thokozile Masipa. South Africa does not have jury trials, so it will be up to the judge to determine guilt or innocence.

The prosecution has sought to present Pistorius as irascible, possessive and trigger-happy. Prosecution witnesses have testified that they heard screams and shots coming from his house in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Throughout the trial so far, he has displayed a range of emotions in the courtroom as the prosecution sought to prove that he killed Steenkamp in a violent rage.

He has sobbed, prayed, thrown up, buried his face in his hands and covered his ears in response to some of the testimony. But he has not so far spoken in his own defense.

“We need to know what he thought, and it’s impossible to rely on that defense without him testifying,” said Kelly Phelps, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Cape Town, referring to Pistorius’ insistence that he killed Steenkamp by mistake. “What other evidence can the court rely on to determine what you were thinking?”

—Sarah Lyall and Alan Cowell, The New York Times

Israelis and Palestinians ask U.S. envoy for new meeting

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators planned to meet with an American mediator Monday for the second straight day in an effort to salvage the Middle East peace talks, which were pushed to the brink of breakdown last week.

A statement from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem described a session Sunday night as “serious and constructive.” It said the negotiators, Tzipi Livni for the Israelis and Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians, had asked the Obama administration’s envoy, Martin S. Indyk, for another round.

The meetings followed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement Sunday that he wanted the talks to continue “but not at any price.” Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made it clear that although they broke commitments last week that they made when they started the negotiations last summer, they still considered themselves bound by the original timetable and therefore have until April 29 to find a way out of the crisis.

Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel would take its own “unilateral steps” in response to the Palestinians’ move last week to join 15 international treaties and conventions and reiterated that a Palestinian state could be created “only through direct negotiations, not through empty statements and not by unilateral moves.”

The Palestinians said they took the contentious step only because Israel reneged on a promise to release a group of long-serving prisoners by the end of March, breaking its own commitment as part of the negotiations.

—Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times