Now Knox parents investigated for defaming police

As Seattle couple fly in for end of the trial, they face inquiry for claiming their daughter was abused
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The Independent Online

The legal manoeuvrings surrounding the trial of the American Amanda Knox for the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher became more convoluted yesterday.

It was revealed that the parents of Ms Knox are being investigated for alleged defamation for saying that Italian police abused their daughter before arresting her. This is in addition to the trial of their daughter and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and a civil case for damages – being heard, as is the practice in Italy, at the same time as the criminal trial – being brought against them by the Kercher family.

Curt Knox said yesterday that he and his ex-wife, Edda Mellas, received notice of the investigation on Friday as they arrived in Italy for the final week of hearings in their daughter's case. He said he found the timing odd given that a verdict in the case is expected at the end of the week. According to the Italian news agency Ansa, the alleged defamation stems from an interview the pair gave to Britain's Sunday Times in June 2008, in which the father alleged that the police had physically and verbally abused his daughter during questioning before she was arrested. The police have denied harming Ms Knox.

Ms Knox, of Seattle, and her co-defendant Mr Sollecito are accused of murder and sexual violence in the death of Ms Knox's roommate, Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Leeds University exchange student from Surrey. Kercher's body was found in the apartment she shared with Ms Knox in Perugia on 2 November 2007. Prosecutors believe the Briton was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game involving Ms Knox, Mr Sollecito and a third defendant, Rudy Hermann Guede of the Ivory Coast. Guede was found guilty of the same charges in a fast-track trial last year and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is appealing his conviction. Prosecutors have requested life terms for Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito.

Yesterday, Mr Sollecito's lawyer Luca Maori spent six hours trying to refute the prosecutors' case in his closing arguments, saying only one person – Guede – was responsible for Kercher's death. "The killer was one and only one," Maori said, adding that even if there were other footprints in the apartment it was logical since Ms Knox and her other roommates lived there.

He said Mr Sollecito was a "gentle, reserved, well-educated" young man who has been unjustly jailed for more than two years for a crime he did not commit. Mr Sollecito's other attorney gives her closing arguments Monday, followed by closing arguments by Ms Knox's lawyers. A verdict is expected on Friday or Saturday.

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer for the Kercher family, said on Friday that the family is seeking compensation equivalent to £22m from Ms Knox, Mr Sollecito and Guede. They all deny wrongdoing.

Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito, who have been jailed since shortly after the Kercher's death, were in court on Friday, as well as their families. After making his closing remarks, Maresca acknowledged to reporters that the three defendants would not be able to pay some $12m (£7m) each. He said the amount requested was "symbolic" because human life is invaluable.

Italian law allows plaintiffs to attach requests for civil damages to criminal proceedings.

During Friday's sessions, damages were sought also for Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, a Congolese man who owns a Perugia pub where Ms Knox worked and whom she initially accused of being the killer. Because of her accusation, Mr Lumumba was briefly jailed. He was later cleared and is seeking defamation damages from Ms Knox.