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Knox in court on slander charges

American said she was hit by police during murder probe

01 June, 16:50
Knox in court on slander charges (ANSA) - Perugia, June 1 - American student Amanda Knox appeared in court Tuesday at a hearing on charges she slandered Italian police during her trial for the 2007 murder of her British housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia. It was Knox's first court appearance since she was sentenced last year to 26 years in jail for Kercher's murder, along with her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was given a 25-year sentence.

The 22-year-old American student said police hit her when trying to get an admission of guilt during questioning - an accusation the officers deny. Tuesday's preliminary hearing was adjourned until October after Knox's lawyers objected to the judge because she also presided over the preliminary stages of the murder trial.

Another court will decide in June whether the judge for the slander case should be switched.

"I didn't want to accuse anyone. I just said what happened," Knox said to her legal team during Tuesday's hearing.

Knox was given a year more than Sollecito for having falsely accused a Perugia pub owner, Congo native Patrick Lumumba, of the killing in the early stages of the investigation.

Knox and Sollecito, 26, both deny the killing and are appealing against the jail terms, as is a third convicted murderer, Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, who was tried in a separate fast-track procedure and is bidding to overturn a 16-year sentence.

DNA evidence that was already hotly contested in Knox's and Sollecito's first trial is expected to again be the focus of the appeals.

Seattle-born Knox, whose good looks led to her frequently being called 'foxy Knoxy' in the Italian media, was sporting a new short hairstyle on Tuesday which gave her a very different appearance to the one she had at the murder trial. "She had wanted to cut her hair for some time but she waited until after the (murder) sentence because she was afraid that was all that would be talked about," Knox's lawyer Maria Del Grosso told reporters.

"It's important that the attention is on the judicial aspects of this affair and not Amanda's appearance". Del Grosso added that Knox had access to a computer in prison which enabled her to continue her university studies. She was also devoting her time behind bars to reading the works of Italian writer Alberto Moravia, she said. 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 central Italian town of Perugia.

According to the prosecution, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher down as Guede tried to have sex with her as Knox threatened her with a knife, before delivering a fatal blow.

The knife was later found with Knox's DNA on the handle, though the defence argued the traces were too small to be significant.

They also said the knife was too big to have inflicted the wounds found on Kercher.

No DNA from Knox was found at the crime scene but Guede's was found there, as well as on the body. Sollecito's DNA was only found on the clasp of Kercher's bra, which had been cut in half, although defence lawyers claimed the crime scene had been contaminated. Under Italian law convicted criminals are entitled to two appeals. Knox's and Sollecito's first appeal is expected to get under way later this year.

The verdict against Knox caused a strong reaction in the United States where 'pro-Amanda' groups have rallied to support her appeal.

One of the United States' top lawyers, Ted Simon, president of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, will flank her Italian defence team. Guede, now 23, had his sentence commuted from 30 to 16 years in his first appeal and his lawyers have taken his case to Italy's Supreme Court in a third and final bid to prove his innocence.

Lumumba was released after 15 days in jail after an alibi confirmed he had been working in his city-centre pub on the night of the murder and police failed to find any evidence linking him with the crime scene.

photo: Amanda Knox.

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