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Sollecito: 'We're still friends'

Raffaele Sollecito said he needs to heal wounds inside his heart and soul, now that he has been cleared of the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

Mr Sollecito, 31, who was acquitted alongside his American former girlfriend Amanda Knox, made his first public comments since the judicial saga ended on Friday night when Italy's top criminal court overturned their earlier convictions.

"I feel today like someone who was kidnapped, who after seven years and five months has returned to freedom," Mr Sollecito said, referring the time since Miss Kercher was found fatally stabbed in her bedroom of the house she shared with Ms Knox and other roommates.

Mr Sollecito and Ms Knox spent four years in jail, including time served after they were convicted early in the case. Later convictions by a Florence appeals court brought sentences of 25 years and 28.5 years respectively.

"Everyone was pointing a finger at me, like I was a murderer, without a shred of evidence," he said.

The Florence appeals court that convicted Mr Sollecito and Ms Knox most recently ruled that the pair acted in concert with Rudy Guede from the Ivory Coast, who was convicted of Ms Kercher's slaying and sexual assault in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Mr Sollecito said he spoke with Ms Knox by phone after they were cleared by the Rome-based court, when they were celebrating with their respective families - his in south-eastern Italy and hers in Seattle.

Both of them "exchanged many good wishes for a new future", Mr Sollecito said.

When asked, he said he had no immediate plans to see Mr Knox. "Our relationship remains that of friendship," added Mr Sollecito, who now has an Italian girlfriend.

Mr Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, said Guede is the one "who knows exactly what happened" when Ms Kercher was slain and appealed to him to say what he knows.

Ms Kercher's family has expressed disappointment and bewilderment over the acquittals.

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