Austrian who imprisoned, raped daughter for decades to go to general prison

BERLIN — An Austrian court ruled Thursday that the man convicted of imprisoning and raping his daughter for 24 years, during which he fathered seven children with her, can be moved from psychiatric detention into a regular prison.

The verdict was based on a psychiatric assessment that Josef Fritzl, 88, who became known as the “Monster of Amstetten” and now reportedly has dementia, no longer poses a danger. His earlier request to be moved to a regular prison was rejected in 2022.

Fritzl, who has changed his name, was handed a life sentence in 2009 after being convicted of incest, 3,000 instances of rape, coercion, false imprisonment, enslavement and negligent homicide of one of the seven children he had with his daughter.

As part of the conditions for leaving Stein prison’s high-security wing for mentally disturbed patients to join the general prison population, the regional court in Krems an der Donau stated “he must prove to the court that he has attended regular psychotherapy every three months” for a probationary period of the next 10 years.

For now, Fritzl’s “everyday life will remain similar. Prison is prison,” said his lawyer, Astrid Wagner.

While his application for conditional release from the “normal prison system” was rejected, Wagner saw the ruling as “an important first step” to seeking his eventual release. She told reporters she planned to work for her client’s early release by next year.

According to Austrian law, prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment are potentially eligible for parole after 15 years — in Fritzl’s case this would be March 2024.

Following the brief hearing, Wagner said Fritzl told her “how he regrets what he did.”

“He was actually close to tears,” she told local media.

The atrocities endured by his daughter Elisabeth made global headlines in 2008 when it emerged that she had been lured into Fritzl’s purpose-built, soundproofed basement at their home in the northeastern Austrian town of Amstetten in 1984.

According to authorities, his wife who lived on the second floor with the rest of the family was allegedly unaware of the horrors in the basement.

The crimes spanning more than two decades were exposed in spring 2008, when Fritzl sought medical care for one of the daughters he fathered in the basement. Police received a tip from the suspicious doctor.

Elisabeth and her surviving children took on new identities and moved to an undisclosed location.

The decision to transfer Fritzl is not yet legally binding and the public prosecutor still has 14 days to appeal, after which the Vienna Higher Regional Court would decide.

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