Austrian incest father pleads ‘not guilty’ to murder (Lead)

March 16th, 2009 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

St Poelten (Austria), March 16 (DPA) Josef Fritzl, the Austrian father who achieved worldwide notoriety in 2008 on allegations of incest involving the daughter he kept locked up for 24 years, denied the murder charge brought against him at the start of his trial Monday in the Austrian town of St Poelten.
“Not guilty!” Fritzl responded to the charge of murder through negligence, relating to the death of a baby which had been denied medical care, in the cellar where he was keeping his daughter captive.

To the charges of repeated rape, incest and false imprisonment, Fritzl replied: “guilty” or “partially guilty”. He rejected the charge of enslavement.

Fritzl is accused of having kept his daughter, Elizabeth, locked in the cellar of his house in Amstetten for 24 years, where he is said to have raped her several thousand times.

The daughter gave birth to seven children in the windowless cellar, six of whom survived.

State prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser described to the jury the horrors of Fritzl’s course of action.

He had kept his daughter Elizabeth chained up for months in the cellar, where she spent almost nine years living in darkness, Burkheiser told the court.

Defence lawyer Rudolf Mayer rejected the labelling of Fritzl as a “monster”. He hadn’t acted out of pure sexual lust, but because he wanted a second family, Mayer said.

If convicted of murder, Fritzl faces a lifelong prison sentence.

At the start of the trial, Fritzl used a blue document folder to shield his face from the cameras, remaining silent while journalists bombarded the 73-year-old with questions.

The trial has drawn 200 journalists from around the world to St Poelten.

The public will be excluded from the majority of the trial, to grant protection to the victims.

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