A top European court has found faults in how Italian police initially questioned Amanda Knox, an American who was imprisoned for nearly four years in Italy after her roommate was killed, and ordered Italy to pay her damages.
“Ms Knox had been particularly vulnerable, being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian,” the European Court of Human Rights said in a statement Thursday.
The decision examines what happened on Nov. 6, 2007, when police questioned Knox at 5:45 a.m. about the death of Meredith Kercher, a British student studying in Perugia who had been found days earlier with her throat slashed in the apartment she shared with Knox.
A court later convicted Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, of sexual assault and murder.
The case dominated international headlines with every lewd and gruesome allegation. In 2015, Italy’s highest court overturned Knox’s conviction. But she also had been convicted of maliciously accusing a bar manager of Kercher’s murder during the initial police questioning on Nov. 6, 2007 — and that was not reversed.
On Thursday, the court said that Knox’s accusation “had been taken in an atmosphere of intense psychological pressure.”
It said authorities had failed to assess the conduct of Knox’s interpreter, “who had seen herself as a mediator and had adopted a motherly attitude” toward Knox.
Authorities also denied Knox her right to a lawyer, the court concluded, and did not prove that they “had not irreparably undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole.”
The court ordered Italy to pay Knox nearly $21,000 (18,400 euros) in damages, costs and expenses.
Knox’s lawyers first filed the complaint with Europe’s human rights court in 2013.
It’s not about the money, an Italy-based lawyer for Knox tells NPR. “We have a confirmation that the entire case and accusation for which she was imprisoned for four years has been recognized as a fundamental mistake, a violation of her fundamental rights,” Carlo Dalla Vedova says.
“Amanda is not looking for anything,” he says, adding that they had discussed the ruling over Skype. “For her today, it was like a relief, a finish of a saga of 11 years. She has already suffered from this situation, and I don’t think we’re going to go anywhere now.”
Knox expressed gratitude for the court’s announcement. “I was interrogated for 53 hours over five days, without a lawyer, in a language I understood maybe as well as a ten-year-old,” she wrote on her blog.
“I trusted these people. They were adults. They were authorities. And they lied to me,” she added.
Now 31, Knox has long insisted that she had no role in her roommate’s death.
Instead, she said that she was subjected to inhumane treatment while in police custody — slapped twice on the head, deprived of sleep and forced to speak at times of extreme psychological pressure, according to the court’s statement.
The European court did not uphold that complaint, finding “insufficient evidence” to show degrading treatment. But authorities failed to investigate her allegations of maltreatment, according to the statement.
The human rights court also described how Knox retracted her accusation against the bar manager, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, hours after speaking with the police.
Despite her repeated retractions in the ensuing days, Italian detectives accused her of trying to conceal her role in Kercher’s killing by pointing the finger at someone else. Knox was charged with making a malicious accusation six months after the initial questioning.
Ivory Coast-born Rudy Hermann Guede was convicted in Kercher’s death after his DNA and a bloody footprint were linked by a forensic scientist to the British student. He is currently serving a 16-year sentence.
Dalla Vedova says that all 15 police officers involved in Knox’s case remain at work today. “So it’s possible the same mistakes could be repeated,” he says.