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Josef Fritzl, Austrian who held daughter captive for 24 years, can be moved to regular prison, court rules

Krems, Austria — An Austrian man who had kept his daughter captive for 24 years and raped her thousands of times, fathering seven children with her, can be moved from psychiatric detention to a regular prison, a court ruled on Thursday. The decision stipulates that Josef Fritzl, 88, will have to attend regular psychotherapy and undergo psychiatric evaluations during a 10-year probation period at the prison, Austria Press Agency reported.

A request to release him from detention was rejected but the decision is still a win for Fritzl's legal team as conditions in a regular prison are considered an improvement compared to strict controls in a psychiatric institution.

Josef Fritzl is escorted to his trial in St. Poelten, Austria, in a March 19, 2009 file photo. AP Photo/Robert Jaeger

His atrocious crime was revealed in 2008 and he was sentenced in 2009 to life imprisonment for committing incest, rape, coercion, false imprisonment, enslavement and negligent homicide of one of his infant sons.

Fritzl became known as the "monster of Amstetten" after the northern Austrian town where he in 1984 locked up his then 18-year-old daughter in a sound-proofed basement of his house. Over the next 24 years, he repeatedly raped her and fathered seven children with her, one of whom died.

Fritzl's wife, who lived on the second floor of the home with the rest of the family, was allegedly unaware of what was going on in the basement, according to Austrian authorities.

Fritzl's daughter disappeared in 1984 at age 18, re-emerging in 2008 from the dungeon-like basement chamber in Amstetten. When the case came to light, it made headlines around the world.

Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a cellar for over 24 years and fathered seven children with her, is escorted back to prison after his hearing at the regional court in Krems an der Donau, Austria, Jan. 25, 2024. JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty

A three-judge regional court in the town of Krems ruled on Thursday that Fritzl, who now reportedly has dementia, could be moved to a regular prison based on a psychiatric assessment that he no longer poses a danger. The ruling overturned an earlier decision from 2022 when Fritzl's request to be moved to a regular prison was rejected.

"In summary, the court has come to the conclusion that it is indeed the case that he is no longer dangerous," Fritzl's lawyer Astrid Wagner told The Associated Press.

She told APA that she would continue to work for Fritzl's release.

"He was close to tears during the hearing," Wagner said. "He said he is unbelievably sorry for his victims, he would love to undo everything he did."

The verdict is not yet legally binding and prosecutors have 14 days to lodge an appeal, APA reported.

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