Italy: Campaign in support of Knox steps up

AP News
Posted: May 26, 2011 10:25 AM
Italy: Campaign in support of Knox steps up

Some Italian lawmakers claim Amanda Knox was treated unfairly and are seeking a probe of the prosecutors' office in Perugia, the city where the American student was convicted of murdering her British roommate.

The request to the Italian justice minister Thursday is spearheaded by a lawmaker who has frequently visited Knox in prison and written a positive book about her. The lawmaker also sent a letter to the Italian president seeking his intervention to avert any controversies arising from the case.

Both the petition and the letter cast doubt on the prosecution's case, alleging that an appeals trial currently under way has undermined the reliability of evidence originally collected against the former exchange student from Seattle, Washington. They also maintain that Knox, who has been in jail since before her conviction, should not have been kept behind bars.

"These distortions, not without reason, are fueling accusations against the administration of justice in our country," lawmaker Rocco Girlanda said in the letter, which was given to The Associated Press.

The petition to Justice Minister Angelino Alfano was signed by 11 lawmakers, all members of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's coalition. It asks Alfano to consider sending inspectors to judicial offices in Perugia _ a move that is considered very serious in Italy and is typically read as a sign of discontent from Rome.

There was no immediate response from authorities.

Girlanda is an ally of Berlusconi, who has vehemently attacked Italian magistrates and is seeking to reform the system to limit their powers. Girlanda also heads a foundation that seeks to promote ties between Italy and the United States, and has established what he says is a close friendship with the 23-year-old American.

Knox was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007, four days after the body of her roommate Meredith Kercher was found in the apartment the two shared as foreign students in Perugia. The 21-year-old Kercher was stabbed to death.

Also arrested was Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who was Knox's boyfriend at the time of the slaying. Both were convicted of sexual assault and murder in 2009. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito to 25.

The two have always denied wrongdoing.

"Who will compensate two 20 year olds _ in the hoped-for case that the appellate trial recognizes their innocence _ of the four years of life and freedom that they have been unjustly deprived of?" said Girlanda. "The so-called evidence and testimonies of the prosecution have proved to be at best considered contradictory and unreliable."

In Italy, many sentences are not served until all levels of appeals are exhausted. However, it is not unusual for defendants to be kept behind bars if they are considered a flight risk, or they might tamper with evidence or repeat a crime. Legal experts say that in murder cases, defendants are often kept under custody during trial.

Knox's appeals court trial has reviewed some of the claims and witnesses of the first trial, but also admitted some new testimony sought by the defense. The appeals court has granted the defense's request for a review of forensic evidence, including DNA traces.

The lawmakers' petition claims the first trial was effectively limited only to the prosecution's "questionable case" and that the defendants were denied their right to a full defense. The prosecution has denied suggestions of an unfair trial.

The appeals trial continues next month. A verdict is expected after the summer.