March 12, 2011 / 9:35 PM / 8 years ago

Italy court hears new witnesses in Knox appeal

PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - New witnesses spoke in the trial for the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher Saturday, giving evidence that lawyers for Amanda Knox hope will dent a claim she was seen near to where her roommate was killed.

Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are appealing against prison sentences of 26 and 25 years respectively for their role in the killing, which prosecutors say was the result of an extreme sex game that turned violent.

Twenty-one-year-old Kercher was found half-naked and with her throat slit in a flat she shared with U.S. student Knox in the university city of Perugia, on November 2, 2007.

A key prosecution witness, homeless Antonio Curatolo, had said during the original trial that he saw Knox and Sollecito a few meters from Kercher’s flat on the night of the murder.

He said he saw the defendants in a car park where coaches were taking students to a local disco.

Witnesses called by the defense Saturday, which included coach operators and disco workers, said there were no bus services on the night of the murder, and that discos were closed following a busy Halloween night.

Curatolo is due to appear as a witness again in the next hearing on March 26.

The Perugia court said in December it would hear new witnesses and also new expert evidence concerning the knife allegedly used as the murder weapon.

Knox’s stepfather Chris Mellas said the evidence Saturday could potentially be a turning point, but lawyers for the prosecution said it did not add anything useful.

The case has attracted huge media attention in Italy and abroad, with family and friends of Knox, and some U.S. media saying her conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

A third defendant, Rudy Guede, originally from the Ivory Coast, has been sentenced definitively to 16 years in jail for his role in the murder.

Writing by Catherine Hornby; editing by Ralph Boulton

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