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3 October 2011, 10:37
Amanda Knox made a heartfelt plea for freedom today telling an appeal court she was innocent of the murder of Leeds student Meredith Kercher.
American Knox declared: 'I have paid with my life for things I did not commit.'
24 year old Knox said she was betrayed by the Italian authorities after the killing of her flatmate in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007.
'I am not who they say I am, the perversion, the violence, the lack of respect for life, and I did not do the things they say I did.
'I did not kill, I did not rape, I did not steal. I was not there at the time.'
Speaking in Italian on the final day of the appeal hearing, she sought to persuade the two judges and the jury who will decide her fate that she did not murder Miss Kercher when a sex game went wrong.
'I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life. I do not want to be punished. I do not want my life taken away for something that I did not do because I am innocent.'
Tearful and hesitant, Knox said she wanted 'justice' for her friend Miss Kercher.
She said: 'I am the same person I was four years ago. The only thing that is different is what I have suffered.
'I have lost a friend in the most brutal way, in an unexplained manner.
'My trust in the police authorities has been betrayed. I have had to deal with unfair charges, unfounded charges and I have paid with my life for things I did not commit.'
She told the packed court room she had never suffered in her life until four years ago and had never before experienced tragedy.
'I had never felt so much fear and suffering,
'I didn't know how to deal with it, how to interpret it.'
Choking back sobs, she told how she had been betrayed on the night she gave her statement to police.
'I was manipulated', she said. 'I did not do the things that have been attributed to me.'
And she insisted, once again, that they had got her wrong.
'I'm not violent', she said.
Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty of murdering Miss Kercher in December 2009 after a trial which lasted almost a year.
Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito to 25.
In her statement today, Knox stood by her ex-boyfriend, saying: 'I am innocent and Raffaele is innocent too.'
27 year old Sollecito also protested his innocence when he addressed the court just before Knox.
And he denied accusing his ex-girlfriend of the murder.
Sollecito said the claim was 'totally untrue' and he said his conviction was a 'nightmare' he had never woken from.
The former student and Knox will learn this week whether they will walk free from jail following an 11-month appeal.
Prosecutors have fought a desperate battle to keep the couple behind bars for the killing they claim marked the gruesome finale to an extreme sex game forced on Miss Kercher.
Knox has always claimed she had nothing to do with the violent death of the young woman she shared a house with while both were studying in Italy.
But others are adamant she is lying and played a leading role in the crime, accompanied by well-to-do Italian Sollecito and small-time drug dealer Rudy Guede.
Guede was convicted in separate proceedings and lawyers for Knox and Sollecito insist he acted alone.
Prosecutors say all three acted together.
During her statement, which lasted about 10 minutes and was given in fluent Italian, Knox fought to dispel the idea there had been any discord between her and Miss Kercher, a popular Leeds University student who had been studying abroad.
'I had a friendship with Meredith', she said.
'She was always nice to me.'
She went on: 'She had her bedroom next to mine. She was killed in our house.
'If I had been there that night, I would be dead like her.
'But I was not there that night, I was with Raffaele.'
After hearing from the couple, the judges and jury retired to consider whether to acquit them, uphold the convictions or - as prosecutors have requested - increase their sentences.
Today's statements by the pair represent their final chance to persuade the court of their innocence.
Knox is said to have been working on hers for three months.
She says she was at Sollecito's house the night Miss Kercher was killed in the cottage the two young women shared while studying in the medieval Italian city.
During her four years behind bars, she is understood to have been penning her memoirs, while rumours of million-dollar bids for the first interview with her if she is released are rife.
At least one film of the case is also being planned.
If Knox wins her appeal, she is expected to fly back to her native Seattle with her family at the earliest opportunity.
But an acquittal is far from guaranteed.
Prosecutors launched a series of courtroom attacks on her character in the final stages of the protracted appeal proceedings.
Religion, sex and race have been woven into the legal showdown, with imagery and rhetoric unfamiliar in British courts deployed against Knox.
The spectre of the 'Madonna/whore' caricature has been raised and there has even been a reference to the animated 80s' film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Carlo Pacelli, who represents Diya 'Patrick' Lumumba - a barman Knox falsely accused of the murder early on and, she says, under pressure from the police - asked the court last week: 'Who is Amanda Knox? Is she the mild-looking, fresh-faced person you see here, or the one devoted to lust, drugs and alcohol that emerges from the court documents?'
Twin souls co-existed in her, he said.
'Both a (saint) and a demonic, satanic, diabolical she-devil, which leads her toward borderline behaviour. This was the Amanda of November 1, 2007,' the night of the murder, he proclaimed.
Sollecito's lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, hit back by insisting Knox was no femme fatale but a loving young woman rather like the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit.
Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, the man behind the sex game theory, meanwhile appeared to dangle the race card before the jury when Guede was described in his closing speech as a 'poor black man'.
White, middle class Knox and Sollecito, on the other hand, were said to be 'of good families'.
Meanwhile the Kercher family, from Coulsdon, Surrey feel that the true victim has been all but eclipsed by the relentless focus on photogenic Knox.
In a recent interview on Italian television, Miss Kercher's sister Stephanie said: 'In these four years, Meredith has been completely forgotten. But we need to find justice for her, we need to find the truth for her.'
There was no sign of Stephanie, her mother Arline, and brother Lyle when the final statements were delivered in court today.
Leeds University student Miss Kercher was 21 when she suffered her brutal death.
Her body was found on November 2, 2007 in her bedroom at the Perugia cottage she was living in.
Her throat had been slit and her semi-naked corpse was partially covered by a duvet.
Knox and Sollecito were locked up shortly afterwards and held for a year before they were charged.
If Knox loses her appeal, she is expected to take her case to Italy's supreme court.