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Amanda Knox won't leave safety of US for murder retrial

THE lie that cost Amanda Knox four years in an Italian jail cell came back to haunt her at the opening of the Meredith Kercher murder retrial in Florence.

Defenders argued that the lack of DNA evidence meant Ms Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, should be definitively cleared.

But Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, the Perugia bar owner Ms Knox falsely accused of the killing, turned up at the court to publicly denounce the  26-year-old American.

"I say the same thing I said six years ago. I think she is guilty, and that is why she slandered me," Mr Lumumba told reporters.

Ms Knox served four years, including time on remand, of the original 26-year sentence handed to her in 2009 for murdering Ms Kercher and for falsely accusing Mr Lumumba of the crime. The slander was widely seen as the act that incriminated Ms Knox the first time around, despite the lack of hard evidence tying her to the scene. Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were freed on appeal in October 2011. But prosecutors rejected the verdict and turned to Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation, which ordered the latest retrial.

The Supreme Court said that prosecutors' claims that  an unemployed drifter, Rudy Guede, the only person definitively convicted of the crime, could not have acted alone warranted further investigation.

Neither Ms Knox nor Mr Sollecito was in court today. Ms Knox said last week she would not leave the safety of the US to attend the trial, but has said she will be observing events closely from her home in Seattle. Mr Sollecito, 29, is on holiday in the Caribbean. Their defence lawyers concentrated today on the lack of forensic evidence tying Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito to the room where Ms Kercher died in the student house she shared with Ms Knox in Perugia.

Giulia Bongiorno, the defence lawyer representing Mr Sollecito, stressed that DNA evidence linking his client to the killing in 2007, was virtually non-existent. "How is it possible to find traces of Guede in enormous quantities but not a single trace of Amanda?" Ms Bongiorno asked the appeals court in Florence. DNA from Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence, was found at the murder scene.

Ms Bongiorno said: "We hope that this will be the last phase of this trial and we hope that it will concentrate solely and exclusively on the reliable evidence and not on conjecture."

This remark was seen as a reference to the version of events portrayed by prosecutors, who contend that Ms Kercher's throat was slashed after she resisted attempts by Ms Knox, Mr Sollecito and Guede to force her to participate in drug-fuelled sex game.

Mr Sollecito's father, Francesco, said that he was confident his son's innocence would be confirmed. "Deeper examination can only demonstrate what we already know, that Raffaele Sollecito has nothing to do with what that poor girl had to suffer," he told reporters.

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer for the Kercher family, said the Supreme Court's decision to throw out the acquittals reinforced their belief that Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were guilty. "We have always maintained that they are guilty and that they were present at the crime scene," he said.

Whatever the verdict in Florence, it may be appealed again at the Court of Cassation. Apart from issuing definitive verdicts, the Supreme Court also has the power to send back cases to a different appeal court as it has for the Meredith Kercher murder - raising the possibility of a drawn-out game of legal ping pong.

Each time the Supreme Court sends a case back to the appeal courts the disputed points of the case become more focused, however, which means the trials should be shorter.

The next hearing has been set for Friday.

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