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Florence - The retrial of Amanda Knox for the murder of her British roommate in 2007 opens in Florence on Monday, refocusing international attention on the sensational case, although the American will not be in court.
Knox and her Italian boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 of killing 21-year-old Leeds University student Meredith Kercher in what was described as a drug-fuelled sexual assault.
After winning an appeal in 2011 quashing the guilty verdict, both were freed from prison. But the case is being tried again after Italy's supreme court overturned the acquittals in March, citing “contradictions and inconsistencies”.
On Monday, the Florence court is expected to mainly discuss technical issues such as the dates for further hearings.
Knox, 26, has always denied murdering Kercher in 2007, when both were university exchange students in Perugia, and she told US television earlier this month that “common sense” told her not to return to Italy for the retrial.
“I was imprisoned as an innocent person and I just can't re-live that,” she told NBC television.
Knox is not obliged to attend and can be represented by her lawyers. If found guilty, she would be able to appeal to the Italian supreme court again, but if that failed, Italy could request her extradition.
Sollecito, 29, who has also always professed his innocence, is expected to attend some of the retrial hearings, his father told Italian media last week.
Kercher was found with more than 40 wounds, including a deep gash in the throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, a picturesque town in central Italy's Umbria region that attracts students from around the world.
Lawyers for Kercher's family have welcomed the retrial, criticising the previous ruling as “superficial”.
Referred to by the nickname “Foxy Knoxy” in many tabloid headlines, Knox was initially portrayed as a sex-obsessed she-devil by prosecutors, but a lobbying campaign by her family helped modify perceptions.
In a memoir released this year, she painted herself as a naive young woman railroaded by Italy's snail-paced justice system, which drew heavy criticism for its handling of the case.
When explaining its decision to overturn the acquittal of Knox and Sollecito, Italy's supreme court said the appeals court that freed them failed to take all the evidence into consideration.
It noted that the one person still in jail for the murder, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence, was unlikely to have committed the crime alone.
Prosecutors said that Kercher was held down and stabbed after she resisted attempts by Knox, Sollecito and Guede to involve her in an orgy. The supreme court has said the theory of a sex game that spiralled out of control should be re-examined.
The prosecution's case was weakened in the last trial by forensic experts who undermined the credibility of DNA evidence provided by police and sharply criticised their initial response procedures at the scene of the killing.