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Austria relieved at Fritzl verdict

Pages of a newspaper published during the trial.
Readers have devoured details of the case in this week's newspapers
Josef Fritzl's life sentence is widely welcomed in Austria's newspapers.

There's a clear sense of relief with headlines in the popular Kronen Zeitung and Der Standard proclaiming "Life for Josef F".

The front page of the daily Heute carries a colourful scene from Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Last Judgement, with the words "That's the way: life sentence!"

There is no rush to criticise the police or other agencies for failing to prevent his crime.

Many of the papers pore over the details and emotion of the trial.

Austria's tabloid Kurier says it was Fritzl's daughter who made sure that he would receive a life term.

With her 11-hour video statement and her surprise appearance in person at the trial, she wanted to ensure her father wouldn't "escape through a back door", says Kurier.

Most of the papers try to capture the drama of the final day in court. Der Standard quotes the final statement of the daughter's court representative, Eva Plaz.

She stressed that her client wanted the accused to be held to account for the death of her child.

By contrast, says the paper, the defence lawyer used such passionate phrasing in his opposition to the murder charge, that he twice drew laughter from the courtroom.

There's much praise for the way the trial was conducted. Kurier describes the performance of the 32-year-old prosecutor, Christiane Burkheiser, as a great success.

She took over the case after just 11 months in office, says the paper, and managed to get convictions on all counts.

Der Standard also applauds the professionalism of the court, noting what it called the unpretentious appearances of the judge and state prosecutor and the competence of the daughter's court representative.

"It should not go unremarked," says the paper, "that all of these were women."

In an editorial, Der Standard goes on to address criticism of the speed of the trial.

"Why prolong the process when the facts are clear," it asks. "Wilfully dragging out the trial would have served only to satisfy a desire for sensation."

Away from the courtroom Die Presse returns to Amstetten, the Fritzls' home town, where many of the locals are weary of the bad publicity caused by their most infamous resident.

One says he's heard how schoolchildren from Amstetten were taking a skiing course in the resort of Obertauern, when some of the pupils were asked whether they were Fritzl's children. "What nonsense is this?", the resident asks.

But the Mayor of Amstetten is more hopeful, says Die Presse. "The verdict is what everyone was hoping for," he told the paper. "A dark chapter in the history of our town is now closed."



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