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Austrian incest victim may sue for compensation

Austrian Elisabeth Fritzl, who was imprisoned by her father for 24 years and gave birth to seven of his children, may sue her father for compensation, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

An Austrian police officer looks on as forensic experts walk into the backyard of a house in Amstetten, where Josef Fritzl imprisoned his daughter for 24 years and fathered her seven children, in eastern Austria May 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Herbert Neubauer)

Fritzl, 73, kept Elisabeth and three of her six surviving children in a windowless basement prison for nearly a quarter of a century, while raising three of their children as his own upstairs.

Lawyer Christoph Herbst said he was looking into claiming compensation from Fritzl, who had four or five real estate assets in his name, for those who had been locked in the basement.

"There is the possibility of claiming compensation for imprisonment and the damage that has been incurred by it," Herbst told Reuters in an interview.

Fritzl's assets also have debt attached to them and it is unclear how much money will be left in the end, he said.

"Now it is all about evaluating his financial circumstances. Does he actually have any wealth so that it pays off to start proceedings?"

Herbst said he had the impression that the victimised family had a loving relationship when he met them.

"My experience of the family was a very positive one. Looking at the way they treat each other, it is really very loving, they are open towards each other and they play together," he said.

United for the first time just over a week ago, Elisabeth Fritzl, five of her children and her mother Rosemarie are now in the care of a hospital in Amstetten, some 130 km (80 miles) west of the capital Vienna.

"If you see the family with your own eyes, it makes you feel much better than looking at the whole case in theory and from afar," he said.

The case came to light when the eldest child of the incestuous relationship, a 19-year-old daughter, became seriously ill and was taken to hospital more than two weeks ago.

She remains in an artificial coma and needs artificial respiration, according to her doctor.

One baby died shortly after being born and Fritzl, who also has seven children with his wife Rosemarie, burnt its remains in a furnace.

Prosecutors are investigating Fritzl for rape, incest, coercion and the death of the baby.

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