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'No U.S. contact on Knox'

Clinton has not criticised verdict, Frattini notes

07 December, 13:59
'No U.S. contact on Knox' (ANSA) - Brussels, December 7 - There has been no contact between the United States and Italy about Amanda Knox's conviction for murdering British student Meredith Kercher, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday.

He said he did not expect any such contact concerning the guilty verdict handed down on Kercher's American house-mate and fellow student, who supporters claim did not receive a fair trial.

Frattini was asked about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's stated willingness to discuss the case with the Senator from Knox's home state of Washington, Maria Cantwell.

Cantwell claimed Seattle native Knox had been found guilty despite "a clear lack of evidence" and the verdict reflected "anti-American" sentiment.

Speaking on his way in to a NATO meeting in Brussels on Afghanistan troop reinforcements, the foreign minister stressed that Clinton herself had not criticised the verdict.

"Who is criticising? A petition led by (Knox's) relatives, certainly not Hillary Clinton. Let's not get confused".

Clinton's interest in the case "seems right and normal to me," Frattini said.

He said he himself heard petitions from activists and MPs who claim two Italians detained in the United States had unfair trials.

He cited a businessman from Trieste, Enrico Forte, who has been in a Miami jail for ten years after being convicted of murder; and a Tuscan computer expert, Carlo Parlanti, serving eight years in California after being convicted of sexual violence in 2005.

"It is right that Hillary Clinton should listen to an American Senator," Frattini said. Knox, 22, and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffael Sollecito, 25, were sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively by a Perugia court just after midnight Friday.

The jury found Knox guilty of delivering a fatal knife wound after a sex game aimed at "punishing" Kercher for complaining about Knox's behaviour went wrong. Sollecito was found guilty of pinning Kercher down with a second man, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, who is appealing an earlier 30-year sentence for Kercher's murder.

Leeds University exchange student Kercher, 21, was found with her throat cut on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared with Knox in the medieval Umbrian university town.

During the trial, which began in February, the prosecution showed the jury a knife police found in Sollecito's apartment which was found to have Knox's DNA on the handle and Kercher's on the tip.

The defence said the DNA evidence was unsafe, the knife was too big to be consistent with Kercher's wounds, and argued there was a lack of a clear motive.

Kercher's family said they were happy with the verdict.

Knox is reportedly under suicide watch in a Perugia jail while Sollecito was moved Monday to a high-security jail in nearby Terni.

Knox and Sollecito's lawyers are already preparing appeals, the first of two they are entitled to.

One of Italy's best-known attorneys, Giulia Bongiorno, led Sollecito's defence.

She said she was confident the convictions would be overturned or the jail terms greatly reduced on appeal.

The first appeal is expected to take about a year, legal experts say.

A second and final appeal, which could also be filed by the prosecution if they are unhappy with the first one, would go to the supreme Cassation Court. photo: Knox

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