Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Kercher family hopeful after ruling

Amanda Knox, seen here in Seattle in October 2011 after returning home from Italy, faces a retrial (AP)
Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox
Francesco Maresca, lawyer of Meredith Kercher's relatives, is surrounded by journalists as he leaves Italy's Court of Cassation in Rome (AP)

The sister of murdered British student Meredith Kercher has spoken of the "long journey ahead" as Italy's highest criminal court overturned Amanda Knox's acquittal for her killing.

The American student returned to her home in Seattle after she was dramatically cleared following four years in jail in 2011. But she now faces the prospect of an extradition request from the Italian government and a new trial in Florence.

Stephanie Kercher said the decision represents a step forward for the family who still hope to discover precisely what happened to the Leeds University student on the night she died.

Speaking from her home in Coulsdon, Surrey, Miss Kercher added: "There are a lot of unanswered questions still. We are very hopeful that it going back to court will help find those answers and find out the truth of what happened that night. Whilst we are not happy about going back to court, and it will not bring her back, we have to make sure we have done all we can for her. We still have a long journey ahead and we are very grateful for the support of the public and in Italy - we just want justice for Mez."

The 21-year-old was found with her throat slashed in November 2007 in her bedroom at the house she shared with Miss Knox in the Italian university town of Perugia.

Prosecutors claimed Miss Kercher was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone awry. Miss Knox, now 25, and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29, denied wrongdoing. They were convicted following a high-profile trial but were released after an appeals court found the prosecution lacking and criticised large swathes of the case against them.

Miss Knox, now a student at the University of Washington, spoke of her anguish following the latest developments. She said: "It was painful to receive the news that the Italian Supreme Court decided to send my case back for revision when the prosecution's theory of my involvement in Meredith's murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair. I believe that any questions as to my innocence must be examined by an objective investigation and a capable prosecution. The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele's sake, my sake, and most especially for the sake of Meredith's family. Our hearts go out to them." She added: "No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity."

Italian law cannot compel Miss Knox to return to the country for a fresh trial but Miss Knox could eventually face the threat of an extradition request. On Monday, her lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said: "If the court orders another trial, if she is convicted at that trial and if the conviction is upheld by the highest court, then Italy could seek her extradition." It would then be up to the US to decide if it honours the request. American and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Miss Knox in America. Meanwhile, if she is asked to attend a hearing in Italy and fails to appear, she could be found in contempt of court. But that would carry no additional penalties.

The nature of the issues which led to the court order have not yet been revealed and will only be disclosed when a full ruling is released in the coming weeks.

Rudy Guede, a small-time drug dealer from the Ivory Coast, is the only person who remains behind bars over the case in Italy, where he is serving a 16-year sentence for sexually assaulting and killing the British student. He has always admitted being present at Miss Kercher's cottage on the night of the murder but denied involvement.

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