Austrian incest father Fritzl on trial for murder

12:00, 16 March 2009
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Josef Fritzl also faces a range...

A 73-year-old Austrian man who fathered seven children with a daughter he imprisoned in a cellar for 24 years goes on trial on Monday for the murder of a newborn boy who died underground, according to Reuters.

Josef Fritzl also faces a range of other charges ranging from rape to enslavement for the incarceration of his daughter Elisabeth and three of the children he had with her -- acts that sent a wave of revulsion through Austria and the world.

"He shut (Elisabeth) away in the cellar and made her totally dependent on him, forcing her into sexual acts and treating her as if she was his own property," his charge sheet reads.

Fritzl, who built the soundproofed cellar with a reinforced door under his home in the town of Amstetten, could face life behind bars.

Fritzl`s lawyer argues that a charge of enslavement is inappropriate, but says he will plead guilty to deprivation of liberty, coercion, rape and incest.

He will, however, contest the most serious charge, murder.

Prosecutors say Fritzl is responsible for the death of a twin who died shortly after being born in the cellar in 1996.

They say this was murder through neglect because Fritzl failed to seek help for the baby, whose body he burned in a furnace.

If he is found guilty of murder by the eight-member jury at the court in St Poelten, near Vienna, he could be given a life sentence or 10-15 years in prison. His lawyer says his client is not a "sex monster," but expects to spend the rest of his life behind bars. A verdict is expected on Friday.

Fritzl`s daughter and her six children, three of whom were incarcerated from birth, are now living in a secret location under new identities.

The case came to light when one of the three children who had never seen sunlight, 19-year-old Kerstin, fell seriously ill and was taken to hospital by Fritzl.

In comments via his lawyer last year, Fritzl said he had lived a "second life" in the windowless 60 sq meter (650 sq foot) cellar complex, watching adventure videos with the children and bringing flowers for Elisabeth, who cooked dinner.

Elisabeth told police she had been kept on a leash in the early months of her imprisonment.

Fritzl told them he had threatened to kill his captives using gas if they tried to escape.

Three of the children born in the cellar were raised above ground by Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie after he pretended Elisabeth had abandoned them. Police say Rosemarie did not know of her husband`s actions.

The case emerged less than two years after Austrian teenager Natascha Kampusch escaped from a basement where she had been held by a kidnapper for eight years.

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