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Germany: Shock at lenient sentence in "German Fritzl" incest case

Publish Date: 19 Dec 2011
Source: The Guardian
By: Stuart Braun

Adolf B arriving in court. Photograph: Timm Schamberger/AP

German father jailed for incest

Adolf B, dubbed the German Fritzl, cleared of rape after claiming his daughter was a 'willing participant'

A German father has been jailed for incest with his daughter, but was cleared of rape.

Adolf B, 69, dubbed the German Fritzl, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after claiming that his daughter was a "willing participant".

Prosecutors had sought a 14-year sentence and convictions on 497 counts of alleged rape over 34 years, beginning when the daughter was 12.

She is said to have given birth to three sons from her father, two of whom have died and the other of whom is disabled. The defendant claimed that other men were the fathers.

The daughter, now 46, said she remained silent for more than 30 years out of fear for her life. Prosecutors alleged that Adolf B forced her at knifepoint to have sex with him, and threatened to kill her if she spoke out. He told the court: "Never in my life have I done that."

The daughter's lawyer, Andrea Kuehne, said her client was "shocked and furious" at the denials.

However, the presiding judge, Heydn Günther, said there was insufficient evidence of violence to sustain the rape charges, and too many contradictions in the testimony of the daughter.

The prosecution alleged that Adolf B had first forced his daughter to have sex with him when she was 12 or 13.

The defendant said consensual sex first occurred when she was 17. He could not be charged with statutory rape because more than 20 years had passed.

Lawyers told the Guardian that changes to sexual offence laws in Germany made a three-decade-old case extremely difficult to prosecute, especially without compelling proof of violence.

There was shock in the German press about the sentence, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung broadsheet described as lenient.

The prosecutor, Beate Frasch, said: "There is no punishment that could do justice to the whole thing."

The daughter, who has three brothers, described her father as a violent patriarch, Frasch said. "She was ultimately his property." She said the father was known locally for being aggressive, especially when he had been drinking.

Kuehne said the abuse went on for so long that the daughter might have developed a survival mechanism such as Stockholm syndrome, in which an abductee builds an emotional bond with their captor. The situation became a kind of "perverse normality," said Kuehne, adding that the pair outwardly appeared to have a normal relationship.

The daughter's mother said she knew nothing of the affair, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Neighbours in the Bavarian town of Willmersbach said rumours of incest in the family home had been common since the 1980s, but no one had told authorities or intervened. Only in 2010, when the daughter was charged with extortion and assigned a probation officer, did she report the alleged rape.

Kuehne said her client would consider appealing against the verdict.

In 2009, Austrian Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of holding his daughter captive in a windowless cellar for 24 years and fathering seven children with her.

• This article was corrected on 20 December, correcting a third-person pronoun to reflect the fact that the prosefcutor, Beate Frasch, is a woman

Copyright © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited