An appeals court in Italy has reinstated a murder conviction against Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend over the death of their flatmate, Meredith Kercher.
The former US exchange student, who lives in Seattle, was sentenced in absentia to 28 years and six months in prison for the 2007 murder in Perugia, raising the spectre of a long legal battle over her extradition.
After nearly 12 hours of deliberations on Thursday, the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009.
Knox and Solecito were arrested in 2007 after the body of Kercher, 21, was found in her bedroom in the flat they shared. They were found guilty of murder and sexual assault based on evidence that included DNA in the first trial.
The evidence was deemed unreliable by new experts, the verdict overturned in 2011 and the pair freed from prison.
However, Italy\’s supreme court stepped in and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.
While Solecito was in court on Thursday morning, he did not return for the verdict.
Knox said from Seattle: "I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict. Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.
"The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt… There has always been a marked lack of evidence. My family and I have suffered greatly from this wrongful persecution."
She also accused prosecutors of "character assassination, inconsistent and unfounded accusatory theory, and counterproductive and coercive interrogation techniques that produce false confessions and inaccurate statements.
"Clearly, a wrongful conviction is horrific for the wrongfully accused, but it is also terribly bad for the victim, their surviving family and society," Knox said.
"First and foremost, it must be recognised that there is no consolation for the Kercher family. Their grief over Meredith\’s terrible murder will follow them forever. They deserve respect and support."
The lawyer representing the Kercher family has said they are satisfied with the verdict.
The retrial focused on a re-examination of DNA evidence. Sollecito\’s lawyer argued that a trace of his client\’s DNA on a metal hook on Kercher\’s bra clasp was there due to contamination, because it was not collected from the crime scene until more than a month after the murder and was repeatedly touched.
The defence and prosecution contest whether Kercher\’s DNA was on the blade of a kitchen knife from Sollecito\’s apartment, which had been used by Knox.
A third suspect, Rudy Guede, is serving a 16-year sentence for sexually assaulting and stabbing Kercher. His trial found that he did not act alone because of the number and variety of Kercher\’s more than 40 wounds.
Both Sollecito and Knox maintain that only one person was guilty of the murder.
Source: Aljazeera and agencies