Anxious Italian politicians today tried to quash suggestions of an escalating diplomatic rift with the US over the conviction of Amanda Knox for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.
Foreign minister Franco Frattini denied US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had criticised the court decision. Meanwhile politicians from Knox’s home state in Washington hit out at “anti-American” bias in the trial.
The row came amid growing anger in the US over Friday’s guilty verdict, which saw Knox, 22, and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, jailed for 26 and 25 years respectively. They were convicted of sexually assaulting and killing the Leeds University student in Italy in November 2007.
The verdict was greeted by shock from Knox’s supporters, many of whom accused the Italian court system of being flawed.
Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell said: “I am saddened by the verdict and I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial.”
She noted jurors were not sequestered and allowed to view “highly negative” coverage of Knox. In addition she claimed the prosecution did not present enough evidence to secure a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
Ms Cantwell said she intended to raise her concerns with high ranking US and Italian diplomats.
“I am in contact with the US Ambassador to Italy and have been since the time of Ms Knox’s arrest. I will be conveying my concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I have also been in touch with the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC.”
Ms Clinton said yesterday she had not looked into the case but would meet with anyone who had concerns.
Mr Frattini denied today any criticism had come from the US administration directly.
“Who criticised?” he asked reporters, adding: “Certainly not Hillary Clinton. Let’s not create confusion.”
The Knox family has said they will appeal a verdict they described as a failure for the Italian judicial system.
Asked for a reaction to the guilty verdict the convicted murderess’s father Curt Knox told US Network ABC “anger and just disbelief on how a judicial system could come up with a verdict like this. It’s beyond me”.
Knox’s sister Deanna, who wept hysterically after the verdict was read out, said: “I feel like this trial has failed their own system.
“This is completely unjust and I’m in complete shock.”
The semi-naked body of Miss Kercher, 21, was found with her throat slit in her apartment in Perugia, where she was studying on her year abroad.
Prosecutors said Sollecito held the victim down while Knox stabbed her to death with a six-inch kitchen knife after what started as some kind of extreme sex game.
The two committed the killing along with small-time drug dealer Rudy Guede, 22, who was jailed for 30 years last October for murder and sexual violence in relation to the case.
Knox, from Seattle, become a source of media fascination during the trial, being alternatively depicted as a wide-eyed innocent and a cold-blooded she-devil.
The American had been sharing a house with Miss Kercher and two other women in the Umbrian hilltop town.
During a trial that lasted almost a year prosecutors described how Miss Kercher, a hard working and pleasant young woman, was killed after Knox’s hatred, probably fuelled by drink and drugs, boiled over into murderous rage.
But no clear motive for the murder appeared to emerge with prosecutor Manuela Comodi telling the court last week that “we live in an age of violence with no motive”.
The Kercher family have said they are “pleased” with the court decision.
The family flew home yesterday after the conclusion of the trial in Perugia.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Miss Kercher’s mother Arline said the family had been “living a nightmare” for two years and her overwhelming emotion following the verdicts remained the pain of losing her “vibrant” and “carefree” daughter.
She said: “We’re the ones who have been given a life sentence. We have to live with what’s happened for the rest of our lives.
“People say time heals – but it doesn’t.”
At a press conference on Saturday, Miss Kercher’s brother Lyle said: “Ultimately we are pleased with the verdict, pleased that we’ve got a decision, but it’s not a time for celebration.”
The Kerchers were awarded €4.4m compensation, but Lyle said the figure was “symbolic” and no amount could make up for their loss.