STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Amanda Knox, who spent years in an Italian jail for the murder of fellow student Meredith Kercher, a crime she was eventually cleared of, did not receive a fair trial for a related charge, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday.
The court ordered Italy pay the American 18,400 euros (16,033 pounds) in damages and costs, well below the 2.7 million euros she had sought, for the way it had prosecuted her for maliciously accusing an innocent man of the murder.
Kercher, from Britain, was killed in her bedroom in the central Italian city of Perugia where both were studying in 2007. Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of the murder in 2009.
In a separate case, Knox was also convicted of falsely accusing Congolese barman Patrick Lumumba of the crime.
Lumumba spent two weeks in jail but was released after proving he spent the night of the murder in his bar.
Both Knox and Sollecito were acquitted of the murder in 2015 when Italy’s top court ruled there was insufficient evidence.
However, the malicious accusation conviction was not overturned. Knox turned to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that a combination of psychological pressure, exhaustion and ignorance had driven her to make a false statement.
The panel of judges said Italy had not treated Knox fairly.
“In spite of her repeated complaints, no investigation into the alleged treatment had been forthcoming,” the court, based in Strasbourg, France, said in a written ruling.
No lawyer had been present at one interview, said the judges who also questioned the role of the police interpreter, who had acted as a de-facto mediator.
“In the Court’s view, that initial failure thus had repercussions for other rights and compromised the fairness of the proceedings as a whole,” the ruling said.
The court dismissed Knox’s claim that police officers slapped her and applied extreme psychological pressure, saying there was no evidence.
The brutality of the attack on 21-year-old Kercher, alleged sex games and multiple trials provided years of fodder for tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic and inspired books and films.
Rudy Guede, from Ivory Coast, was charged alongside Knox and Sollecito, but was tried separately. His subsequent conviction was ultimately upheld by the appeals court but his original 30-year jail term was cut to 16 years.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)