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Sollecito blasts judge who gave interview after conviction

Accuses Nencini of 'interference'

04 February, 14:28
Sollecito blasts judge who gave interview after conviction (ANSA) - Rome, February 4 - Raffaele Sollecito on Tuesday blasted the Florence judge who broke Italian legal convention by giving press interviews after convicting him and his ex-girlfriend Amanda Knox for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher last week.

In Italy judges usually only talk about their verdicts via written explanations published at least a month after they are handed down.

But Alessandro Nencini, the head of the panel that sentenced Sollecito to 25 years and American Knox to 28 and a half years at the repeat of the appeals-level trial, gave three interviews to different newspapers that were published Saturday.

As a result Nencini was accused of not being impartial and Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri ordered ministry inspectors carry out a preliminary assessment of the case on Monday. Furthermore, several members of the Italian judiciary's self-governing body, the CSM, have asked for disciplinary procedures to be opened against Nencini.

"Clearly there was interference," said Sollecito after meeting his lawyer in Rome Tuesday.

One of the most controversial aspects is that in one of the interviews, Nencini seemed to suggest that the fact Sollecito had not allowed himself to be cross-examined had damaged his chances of getting off. Sollecito gave statements to the court, but did not stand for cross-examination from the prosecution.

Nencini told one newspaper that, while it was within Sollecito's rights not to be cross-examined, doing so "deprives the subject of a voice".

Sollecito, who, like Knox, is appealing against the conviction to the supreme court, said Monday he was "puzzled" by that comment.

"If indeed my statements could have changed the course of the trial, why didn't anyone feel the need to interrogate me?" he said. Sollecito and Knox have both already served a total of four years in prison, including pre-trial custody, after their initial conviction in 2009. That sentence was subsequently overturned on appeal but the supreme court last year quashed the acquittals over aspects of the evidence it argued had not been properly examined and ordered a repetition of the appeals-level trial.

Sollecito on Friday morning was forced to hand in his passport after he had taken a drive through Austria, but denied allegations of attempting to flee, saying the brief trip was to relax from a stressful 12-hour court session on Thursday.

Knox stayed in a her native Seattle and did not attend the repeat of the appeals trial, saying she feared wrongful conviction. The Florence court has not requested that either be detained ahead of the appeal to the supreme court.

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