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Amanda Knox on her conviction for murder

By Neil Lancefield and Alex Diaz

Amanda Knox is refusing to return to Italy after judges reinstated her murder conviction for the death of British student Meredith Kercher.

Knox was sentenced to 28 years and six months and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was jailed for 25 years.

He was held by Italian police at around 1am yesterday and had his passport seized after reportedly taking a short trip to Austria.

Miss Kercher's family have called on Knox to be extradited from the US, but she insisted: "I will never go willingly back."

Knox told ABC's Good Morning America: "I will never go willingly back... I'm going to fight this to the very end. It's not right and it's not fair."

She told the US show that she has sent a letter to her lawyer which is addressed to Miss Kercher's family.

"It's in the mail. Mainly I just want them to know that I really understand that this is incredibly difficult, that they've also been on this neverending thing and, when the case has been messed up so much, like, a verdict is no longer consolation for them," she said.

After the verdict she issued a statement saying she was "frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict, having been found innocent before".

"I expected better from the Italian justice system," the statement said.

"The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, nothing has changed. There has always been a marked lack of evidence.

"My family and I have suffered greatly from the wrongful persecution."

Knox (26) said the case had "gotten out of hand". "Most troubling is that it was entirely preventable," she said.

She described the investigation as "prejudiced and narrow-minded". She said there was an "unwillingness to admit mistakes" and added there was a "reliance on unreliable testimony and evidence".

Knox said there was a "character assassination" as well as "inconsistent and unfounded accusatory theory", along with "counter-productive and coercive interrogation techniques that produced false confessions and inaccurate statements". Knox described the ruling as "inconsistent and unfounded" and her co-accused was said to have been "astonished" with the way the court kept changing its mind.

Neither defendant was in the courtroom as the verdict was announced, though Sollecito (29) had attended the lengthy hearings.

Members of 21-year-old Miss Kercher's family were there to hear the verdict – and said they would not be able to forgive those responsible for her death.

Sollecito was found with his girlfriend at a hotel in Venzone, near Italy's border with Slovenia and Austria, early yesterday.

He was taken to a police station where he was told he was not allowed to leave Italy and his passport was confiscated.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, he told police he had been driving in Austria before coming back to Italy.

The 29-year-old told his lawyers: "I never thought of fleeing, not in the past nor now."

Miss Kercher, a Leeds University exchange student from Coulsdon, south London, was found with her throat slashed in the bedroom of the house she shared with Knox in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007.

Knox and Sollecito were originally found guilty of murder in 2009 but were cleared nearly two years later – but the appeal court ordered a fresh trial last March.

Prosecutors claimed that Miss Kercher was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone wrong, but the defendants have consistently protested their innocence and claim they were not in the apartment on the night she died.

Rudy Guede, a drug dealer, is serving a 16-year sentence over the death – though the courts have said he did not act alone.

In an interview before the verdict was handed down, Knox said: "They'll have to catch me and pull me back, kicking and screaming, into a prison I don't deserve to be in."

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