Knox appeal puts Kercher murder back in spotlight

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Italy's legal system will come under unprecedented scrutiny today as Amanda Knox launches an appeal against her conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher, a British student.

Knox, a 23-year-old American, was sentenced to 26 years in prison last year for her part in the killing in 2007 of her housemate in the central Italian city of Perugia.

Knox's then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede, an unemployed drifter from Ivory Coast, were also convicted of sexual assault and murder.

Sollecito will be appealing against his 25-year sentence jointly with Knox in the Perugia court from today under international media glare.

Defence lawyers for the two claim there are numerous gaps in the prosecution's case and say that a miscarriage of justice occurred. The weakness of the forensic evidence and the failure of the prosecution to provide a convincing motive for the crime has led some, particularly in the US, to express doubts about the safety of the conviction.

The defence lawyers for Knox and Sollecito are seeking a full review of the forensic evidence, including disputed claims that incriminating DNA was found on a knife allegedly used in the murder and on the clasp of Ms Kercher's bra.

Chiara Magrini, a law professor at Rome's John Cabot University, said that if the appeal court did allow a review of the forensic evidence together with fresh witnesses, then this may indicate that the presiding judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellman, had concerns about the quality of the evidence used in the first trial.

Knox's attorney, Luciano Ghirga, has said that his client was "worried, tense" ahead of the appeal, and "exhausted" by the three years, from the time of her arrest, that she has spent in prison.

The opening hearing is expected to be quick and devoted to procedural matters, lawyers said. Both defendants are expected to attend. The case is then likely to be adjourned until the second week in December. Should Knox lose this appeal, she is entitled to one more under Italian law. But only technical arguments would be considered.