The retrial of Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito over the murder of British student Meredith Kercher has begun in Italy, but neither defendant has been in court.
American student Amanda Knox, 26, has repeatedly said she will not return to Florence from Seattle, nor is she compelled to do so by law.
Her former boyfriend Sollecito, a 29-year-old Italian IT graduate, is following proceedings from the Caribbean, where he is on holiday, said his father.
“I will be informing Raffaele of what happens on the phone after the hearing,” said Francesco Sollecito.
He added he would be attending every hearing in the appeal trial, which is expected to last until Christmas.
Sollecito’s father denied suggestions in the media that his son was dipping into a fund he had set up for contributions to his legal expenses.
“The holiday was provided by a supporter,” he said. “We have raised $25,000 (£15,000) and haven’t touched it.”
Knox’s decision to not be present in court was criticised by Patrick Lumumba, the former barman who Knox initially accused of taking part in the murder of Miss Kercher in Perugia.
“Knox is afraid – she knows she has responsibility for the death of poor Meredith,” he said in court.
Lumumba said he had just graduated in International Communications at Perugia’s University for Foreigners, the university attended by Knox during her stay in Perugia.
As the hearing got under way in Florence, the presiding judge turned down a request from Knox’s lawyers to exclude Lumumba as a civil plaintiff from the trial.
Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing the Kercher family, handed the judge a letter from the family, explaining their absence from the session on health grounds.
he new trial is being held at a modern appeal court building on the fringes of Florence, a stark contrast to Perugia’s medieval court building where hearings have previously been held.
In 2009, Knox and Sollecito were convicted of killing 21-year-old Ms Kercher two years earlier in the student flat the two women shared in Perugia.
A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted over the murder and is serving a 16-year jail term. A court found that Guede had not acted alone.
The latest trial is expected to re-examine forensic evidence to determine whether Knox and Sollecito helped kill Ms Kercher.
An appeals court acquitted the two suspects in 2011, citing weaknesses in DNA evidence.
The pair, who at that point had spent four years behind bars, were released, and the American flew back home.
But in March this year, Italy‘s supreme court overturned the acquittal, citing what it said were “shortcomings, contradictions and inconsistencies” in the appeal court’s verdict, and ordered a retrial.
A new appeal verdict will now be reached, possibly by Christmas, before the case returns to the supreme court.
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