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Infamous rapist Josef Fritzl may leave Austrian jail psychiatric unit

A court has ruled notorious rapist Josef Fritzl, pictured in 2009, may leave a psychiatric unit for mainstream prison.

A court has ruled notorious rapist Josef Fritzl, pictured in 2009, may leave a psychiatric unit for mainstream prison. Photo: APA via Getty

An Austrian court says the country’s most infamous living criminal, incestuous rapist Josef Fritzl, could move to regular prison from a prison psychiatric unit but he was still far from being eligible for release.

Fritzl, who has now changed his name, raped his daughter as he held her captive for 24 years in a dungeon he built under his home, fathering her seven children.

The case attracted worldwide attention when it came to light in 2008.

The 89-year-old has been serving a life sentence in a prison unit for “mentally abnormal” inmates since his conviction in 2009 for incest, rape, enslavement, coercion and the murder by neglect of one of the children, a newborn boy.

“He no longer poses a threat that requires being held in a forensic-therapeutic centre,” the court said, using a more recent term for where he is being detained.

It cited his advancing dementia and frailty as factors and imposed a 10-year probation period.

A transfer could pave the way for Fritzl’s conditional release from prison altogether, and Fritzl’s lawyer Astrid Wagner has said she would apply for such a release within a year of his transfer.

The court, however, made clear on Tuesday that he was still far from fulfilling the conditions for a full release.

“In the same decision, the three-judge panel also ruled that a conditional release from regular custody, i.e. being freed, is not possible for special preventive reasons,” the statement said, referring to the “unprecedented criminal energy” he used.

It was therefore not to be expected that he would be released in the future, the statement said.

Wagner, his lawyer, told oe24 TV she was undeterred.

“I believe he will be (released) but … it is too soon now,” she said.

At a hearing in the town of Krems an der Donau near Vienna in January, the same court allowed Fritzl’s transfer, only for a higher court to overturn that decision in March, ruling that “the facts necessary for such a conditional release had not yet fully been established”.

It sent the case back to the first court, ordering it to gain a fuller picture of Fritzl’s suitability for a transfer.

Prosecutors can still file a complaint against the ruling announced on Tuesday in a bid to get it overturned, as they did after the first ruling.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

-Reuters

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