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Italy court rules 2007 Perugia murder trial be reopened


09:06, March 27, 2013

ROME,March 26 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the acquittal of American student Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in connection with the gruesome 2007 murder of Knox's former roommate British Meredith Kercher in Perugia, a central Italian city.

The decision -- which immediately sparked headlines in Italy, the U.S. and Britain -- means that the 2011 acquittal of Knox and Sollecito must be retried.

When that happens, it will be the third time the former lovers were tried in this case: the first concluded in 2009, with a conviction for Knox being sentenced to 26 years in prison, with a 25-year term for Sollecito. They appealed and the conviction was overturned two years ago. Now the acquittal was reversed.

The decision was reached Tuesday morning in Italy, but it was 3 a.m. in Seattle, Washington (USA) where Knox stayed awake to hear the verdict. Afterwards, she issued a statement saying it was "painful" for the 2011 verdict to be overturned but she was "confident" a new trial would reach the same conclusion and acquit her.

"We have to remember that this is not a statement that Knox and Sollecito are guilty, but only that the previous trial was flawed in some way," legal expert Francesco Compagna said in an interview. "The annulled verdict does not mean the verdict will be revered by the courts. They would very well be found not guilty again."

It is extremely unlikely that Knox will return to Italy for the trial, though she will clearly be invited back to testify. But the trial will take place even in her absence, and if she is found guilty Italy will be able to ask for her extradition to serve out her sentence.

Sollecito, on the other hand, is Italian. Compagna said he is not considered a risk to flee, since doing so would mean he could never return to Italy or even to the European Union.

The request for a retrial started with a plea from the family of Kercher, which, through attorney Francesco Maresca, issued a brief statement saying Tuesday's decision was "what we wanted."

Knox and Sollecito have already served four years in prison in the case in which Kercher's body was found covered in blood with her throat slashed in an apparent sex game that ended badly.

The case captivated the world's media, with hundreds of journalists descending on the sleepy hilltop Umbrian university town of Perugia, where Knox, Sollecito, and Kercher all studied. The first two trials were held in Perugia, but the new one will be held in Florence, 115 kilometers to the northwest.

The decision came after Knox and Sollecito had settled back into a normal life: both had returned to their studies at their respective home town universities. Both had also recently signed book deals to tell their version of the events. At least indirectly, their versions will soon be told in a Florence courtroom.

Rudy Guede, a native of Ivory Coast, was also convicted in Kercher's murder. But his trial was separate, ending in a 16-year sentence after a plea bargain. Now in his fifth year behind bars, Guede's sentence will not be impacted by the new trial.

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