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Daughter confronts incest father in video

The Austrian woman who bore seven children through incest and was allegedly locked in a squalid dungeon for 24 years confronted her father in a videotape shown in court Tuesday.
Image: Defendant Fritzl arrives for his trial
Defendant Josef Fritzl arrives for his trial at an Austrian court on Tuesday. Helmut Fohringer / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

The woman who bore seven children through incest and was allegedly locked in a squalid dungeon for 24 years confronted her father in a videotape shown in court Tuesday — testimony that could send him to prison for life.

Josef Fritzl, 73, again hid his face behind a blue binder and stayed silent as he was led into the court in St. Poelten, west of Vienna, for the second day of his trial.

Fritzl has pleaded guilty to incest with his daughter Elisabeth and false imprisonment, but is contesting negligent homicide and enslavement charges against him and has acknowledged only partial guilt on rape and coercion charges.

Videotaped testimony
On Tuesday, jurors, Fritzl and the rest of the court viewed videotaped testimony from Elisabeth, the key witness against Fritzl. Now 42, she was 18 when he allegedly imprisoned her in the cramped, windowless cell he built beneath the family's home in Amstetten.

Those in court also saw videotaped testimony from Harald, one of Elisabeth's brothers, court spokesman Franz Cutka told The Associated Press.

Fritzl has been charged with homicide in the death of an infant — a male twin born to Elisabeth in April 1996 — who prosecutors say might have survived with proper medical care had he and his mother not been locked in the basement.

Police say DNA tests prove Fritzl is the biological father of all six of Elisabeth's surviving children, three of whom never saw daylight until the crime came to light and shocked the world 11 months ago.

Cutka said Fritzl responded to questions from the judge and prosecutors about different points as they came up in the testimony from both his daughter and son. He declined to provide more details.

Fritzl could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of homicide. He faces up to 20 years behind bars if found guilty of enslavement, up to 15 for a rape conviction, and one year for an incest conviction.

Reporters were not allowed into the courtroom Tuesday morning, and were expected to remain excluded until shortly before the verdict, which could come as early as Thursday.

Elisabeth a 'broken' woman
In her opening statement Monday, prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said Fritzl refused to speak to his daughter during the first few years of her ordeal, coming downstairs only to rape her.

Burkheiser said the rapes sometimes occurred in front of the children, and she described Elisabeth as a "broken" woman.

Three of the children grew up underground in Amstetten and the other three were brought upstairs to be raised by Fritzl and his wife, Rosemarie, who apparently believed they had been abandoned.

Elisabeth and her six surviving children have spent months recovering from their ordeal in a psychiatric clinic and at a secret location.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said he did not expect any surprises at the trial.

"The facts are relatively clear ... there can't really be any surprises in a situation that has already been cleared up," Mayer said.

He said Fritzl answered all the court's questions during closed-door proceedings Monday afternoon. "He was cooperative," Mayer said.

Jurors also will consider several reports from experts — including one on Fritzl's psychological state, one on the newborn that died and one on the door leading into the dungeon, which prosecutors say could not be opened from the inside.

'Now he's ashamed'
The Associated Press normally withholds the names of victims of sexual assault. In this case, the withholding of Elisabeth's name by the AP became impractical when her name and her father's were announced publicly by police and details about them became the subject of publicity both in their home country and around the world.

Austrian media ridiculed Fritzl on Tuesday for hiding his face in court when the trial began Monday.

"Now he's ashamed — 25 years too late," the Heute newspaper said in a front page headline over a photo of Fritzl trying to shield himself from news cameras.