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Saturday February 1, 2014 MYT 4:45:08 AM
Saturday February 1, 2014 MYT 4:45:10 AM
by susan heavey AND naomi o'leary
WASHINGTON/FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Amanda Knox vowed on Friday to fight her second conviction for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in 2007 while the two were students together in the Italian university town of Perugia.
Speaking on U.S. television a day after her conviction by a court in Florence, the 26-year-old American said she would never willingly return to Italy to serve the 28-1/2-year sentence handed down by judges.
"I'm going to fight this until the very end. And it's not right, and it's not fair and I'm going to do everything that I can," she told ABC News' "Good Morning America" program on Friday.
The family of the victim urged the United States to agree to extradite Knox if her conviction is upheld after a final appeal process expected to conclude in 2015.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Friday that officials will continue to monitor the case.
Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were both found guilty of killing the 21-year-old Kercher, who was found stabbed to death in an apartment the two young women shared in Perugia.
Sollecito on Friday also vowed to contest the conviction.
"To me, all of this makes no sense, so I will fight until the end," he told NBC News in an interview after being detained, then released, by police following the verdict.
Knox has remained in her U.S. hometown of Seattle since being released from prison in 2011 after an appeal overturned an original conviction and freed her and Sollecito after four years in custody.
Neither her sentence nor the 25-year prison term handed to Sollecito will have to be served pending further appeals, and a prolonged legal fight is now in prospect.
Sollecito left the court hours before the verdict was delivered and was found by police in the early hours of Friday between the northern towns of Udine and Tarvisio, less than 10 km (6 miles) from Italy's border with Austria.
He told NBC he was so confident that he and Knox would be found not guilty that he had planned a trip outside of Italy, according to the television network.
As soon as he learned of the verdict, he returned to Italy to surrender his passport, but officials detained him before he could get to a police station, he said, according to NBC. He was released after several hours.
His lawyer, Luca Maori, denied he was trying to escape the country, having left Thursday's hearing early because of stress.
Under the terms of Sollecito's sentence, authorities took his passport and have instructed him not to leave Italy. For the moment he is free to travel around inside the country.
Sollecito said the guilty verdict "was completely unexpected," according to NBC. "Psychologically, it's devastating," he added.
Asked about her former boyfriend, Knox said: "He is vulnerable, and I don't know what I would do if they imprisoned him. It's maddening."
The case, which has hit the headlines around the world, has divided opinion internationally.
Knox has been widely vilified in Italy, but in her home country she is commonly seen as a victim of a faulty justice system and the prospect of an emotionally fraught battle to extradite the student is now on the horizon.
The Kercher family said the six years of legal wrangling since Meredith was killed, which has done little to clear up the mysteries surrounding the case, had compounded their loss and urged the United States to extradite Knox.
"It would set a difficult precedent if a country such as the U.S. didn't choose to go along with laws that they themselves uphold when extraditing convicted criminals from other countries," Meredith's brother, Lyle Kercher, said.
"It ... leaves them in a strange position not to."
Sister Stephanie said she had not been able to properly grieve due to a drawn-out struggle to establish the basic facts of the night their sister was killed.
"It may be that we never know the truth about what happened that night," she said.
One man, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence, was found guilty of killing Kercher but judges ruled that he had not acted alone, given the number and variety of wounds on Kercher's body.
Both Knox and Sollecito gave confused alibis in initial testimony to police, while DNA evidence linking them to the crime has been disputed by their defence lawyers who say it was contaminated in a botched investigation.
Knox said she had reached out to Kercher's family and that no verdict could offer her family consolation, given all the problems with the court case and the Italian judicial system.
"I think the answers are out there, and I really, really ask that people try to look for those."
(Additional reporting by Silvia Ognibene in Florence and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Alison Williams, Gareth Jones and Gunna Dickson)
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