Verdict in Fritzl trial expected soon

Sankt Poelten, Austria - A verdict in the trial of Josef Fritzl, who has admitted locking up his daughter and fathering her seven children, is expected as early as Thursday, court spokesperson Franz Cutka said.

The high-profile trial had officially been set to run until Friday, but a verdict looks likely to be reached earlier, Cutka told a news conference on Tuesday, the second day of proceedings.

"The final pleas could be made on Thursday morning and that means we could expect to have a verdict on Thursday afternoon," Cutka said.

Cutka said the court would finish viewing over 11 hours of videotaped testimony by Fritzl's abused daughter Elisabeth and her brother Harald on Tuesday.

This meant that a psychiatric expert could testify Wednesday, after which two reports by technical experts - related to the cellar in which Fritzl locked his daughter for 24 years - would be read out to the court.

The defendant, his lawyer and the prosecution had agreed to the reading of the experts' opinion rather than their appearance at the trial, Cutka added.

Wednesday's session would also be open to the public and media again, he said.

The trial, which has grabbed worldwide attention, has largely been conducted behind closed doors to protect the victims' identities.

"Today's session was dedicated to viewing the videotaped testimony of the defendant's daughter and one of her brothers," Cutka told journalists Tuesday afternoon, noting the day's proceedings were still ongoing.

"The defendant was questioned about the issues that came up in the testimonies, and he gave his views."

He refused to give any information about the content of the testimony, only noting that "the defendant followed (his daughter's) recorded testimony attentively."

The testimony was videotaped to spare Elisabeth and her brother Harald an appearance in court.

A neo-natal expert was also questioned on Tuesday to help clarify the murder charge against Fritzl, which carries a life sentence.

The prosecution accuses him of letting a baby die shortly after birth in 1996. Fritzl says the baby was stillborn and he burnt the body.

He pleaded guilty on Monday to incest, rape and sequestration but denied the most serious charges of murder and enslavement.

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