Kercher murder suspect Sollecito appears in court

Raffaele Sollecito: "This has been going on for far too many years"

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Raffaele Sollecito, the Italian man convicted and later cleared of killing a British student in Perugia in 2007, has told a court in Florence that he is not a "ruthless killer".

He described the allegations against him as absurd, and later broke down.

Mr Sollecito and his then-girlfriend, Amanda Knox, were convicted in 2009 of murder but acquitted on appeal in 2011.

In March, Italy's highest court overturned the acquittals and ordered a new trial.

Ms Knox, who returned to the US after the appeal, is not expected to attend court.

"He has come to show that he is not running away," Mr Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, told reporters before the start of the hearing.

'Fairytale'

During his statement, Mr Sollecito paused to hold back his emotions. He described his relationship with Ms Knox as a "first love", adding that they just "wanted to be isolated in our nest of desire in a little fairytale".

Start Quote

I think that this court has all the elements to take its decision. Another court has determined why that knife was in Knox's hands”

End Quote Francesco Maresca Lawyer for the Kercher family

"We were thinking of anything but the distorted, scornful vision of humanity of which we are being accused by the whole world," he said.

He said the evidence produced against him had proved to be without substance and that living at the centre of media attention was an immense strain.

"I am the victim of a crazy persecution that for me has no logic and seems like an unimaginable nightmare... I don't really have a life any more."

The new appeal was ordered after the prosecution took the case to the Supreme Court.

The court strongly criticised the way the appeals court had dismissed important DNA evidence, ordering the whole process to begin all over again.

New evidence

One of the key pieces of forensic evidence that helped to convict the pair in the first place was a kitchen knife found in Mr Sollecito's kitchen, which was said to have Meredith Kercher's DNA on the blade.

But the DNA sample was tiny, and the appeal judge thought the evidence was unreliable.

Tuesday's hearing will focus on a minute trace of DNA found on the murder weapon but not previously tested.

The family of the murdered exchange student were not in court. But their lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said the evidence was clear for all to see.

"I think that this court has all the elements to take its decision. Another court has determined why that knife was in Knox's hands," said Mr Maresca.

But lawyers for Mr Sollecito have already said it would be normal for the knife to have Ms Knox's DNA since it was found in her boyfriend's kitchen drawer.

Both Mr Sollecito and Ms Knox spent four years in prison before their acquittal, and have always insisted they are innocent.

Another man - Rudy Guede from Ivory Coast - was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to 16 years for the killing.

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