KREMS, Austria (AP) — An Austrian man who held his daughter captive for 24 years, raped her thousands of times and fathered seven children with her can be moved from psychiatric custody to a regular prison, a court ruled Thursday.
However, the decision stipulates that 88-year-old Josef Fritzl must regularly receive psychotherapy and undergo psychiatric examinations during a ten-year probation period in the prison, the Austria Press Agency reported.
A request to release him from custody was rejected, but the decision is still a victory for Fritzl's legal team, as conditions in a regular prison are seen as an improvement compared to strict controls in a psychiatric facility.
His gruesome crime was uncovered in 2008 and he was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for incest, rape, coercion, false imprisonment, enslavement and negligent homicide of one of his young sons.
Fritzl became known as the “Monster of Amstetten” after the northern Austrian city locked his then 18-year-old daughter in a soundproof basement of his home in 1984.
Over the next 24 years he raped her repeatedly and fathered seven children with her, one of whom died.
According to Austrian authorities, Fritzl's wife, who lived with the rest of the family on the second floor of the house, allegedly did not know what was going on in the basement.
Fritzl's daughter disappeared in 1984 at the age of 18 and reappeared in 2008 from the dungeon-like cellar in Amstetten. When the case came to light, it made headlines around the world.
A three-member regional court in the city of Krems decided on Thursday that Fritzl, who is now said to be suffering from dementia, can be transferred to a regular correctional facility because, according to a psychiatric report, he no longer poses a danger. The ruling overturned an earlier decision from 2022, when Fritzl's request to be transferred to a regular prison was rejected.
“In summary, the court has concluded that he is in fact no longer dangerous,” Fritzl's lawyer Astrid Wagner told The Associated Press.
She told the APA that she would continue to advocate for Fritzl's release.
“He was close to tears during the hearing,” Wagner said. “He said he was incredibly sorry for his victims and would like to undo everything he’s done.”
The verdict is not yet final and the public prosecutor has 14 days to file an appeal, the APA reported.