Josef Fritzl, the infamous Austrian rapist and sex offender, is seeking to be transferred from prison to a nursing home due to his deteriorating health and a recent psychiatric assessment that deemed him to be no longer a danger to society, according to his lawyer.
Fritzl’s lawyer Astrid Wagner told CNN that “expert opinion suggests that his illness has reached a point where the likelihood of committing serious offenses with significant consequences has diminished,” citing the assessment.
In a 2009, a jury in Austria found Fritzl guilty of raping and imprisoning his daughter over a period of more than two decades and sentenced him to life in prison.
That trial shocked the world with details of how he had closeted his daughter in a specially designed cellar in 1984, when she was 18, then kept her there for 24 years while repeatedly sexually assaulting her and fathering her seven children.
Fritzl kept four of those children captive in the cellar with his daughter, while allowing the others to live upstairs with his wife.
Meanwhile, he told his family that his daughter had run away to join a cult and explained the sudden appearance of the three children by claiming she had returned and dropped them off.
The case only came to light in April 2008, when one of the children became seriously ill and ended up in hospital.
Fritzl, 88, is currently imprisoned in Krems in northeast Austria under preventative “enforcement measures” based on the danger posed by his mental illness.
Wagner said Tuesday that Fritzl is now showing “genuine remorse,” adding that “he talks a lot about family, it is important to him that the family is doing well.”
The lawyer said that a doctor’s report discovered that he has a “degree of brain ageing… which leads to so-called dementia.”
CNN has not seen a copy of the report and has reached out to the doctor without success.
Wagner said that her client “urgently needs cognitive therapy to stop the subsequent cognitive decline,” adding that he had been having hallucinations.
She insisted that the only place where he would receive adequate care is in a care home, adding “every person, including prisoners, has a right to treatment”.
Wagner is hoping that Fritzl will be released into an open prison and subsequently a nursing home.
Ferdinand Schuster, vice president of the regional court of Krems, told CNN that “the report shows that danger no longer exists in the prisoner.”
The report itself, however, is not enough for Fritzl to be released from prison, Schuster said.
A three-judge panel will now decide whether he should be conditionally released to a regular prison.
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