Amanda Knox murder verdict sets stage for Italy extradition battle

Italy could seek American's arrest now conviction for murder reinstated

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 February, 2014, 10:39am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 5:10am

Roman Polanski. Edward Snowden. Manuel Noriega. Over the years, the famous and the infamous have been caught up in the legal process called extradition, which governs whether one country will turn over fugitives from justice to another country.

It may ultimately be the turn of Amanda Knox, whose murder conviction for the stabbing of her British room-mate has been reinstated by an Italian court, raising the spectre of a long extradition fight. She says she'll never willingly go back to Italy.

The Knox case is special because it raises the question of whether the US government would send one of its own citizens to a foreign country to face a long prison term.

The answer: it's been done before, though in less high-profile cases involving the governments of Canada, Mexico and other nations.

The US has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries, including Italy, providing what would appear to be a strong legal foundation in favour of a request for Knox's return to Italy.

"It's absolutely not the case that an individual will not be extradited just because they are a US citizen," says Douglas McNabb, an international criminal defence attorney and an expert in international extradition law.

Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were both found guilty on Thursday of killing 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, who was found stabbed to death in a flat the two women shared in Perugia.

Knox has remained in her US 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.

Sollecito was found by police in the early hours of Friday less than 10 kilometres from Italy's border with Austria. He was released after several hours.

Time is on the side of Knox's lawyers. Proceedings could take up to a year to play out in the Italian courts.

If Italy were to file a provisional arrest warrant after the Italian proceedings end, Knox's lawyers could take the US government through a judicial process in the courts and an administrative process at the State Department, which would make the decision.

The State Department declined to comment on Friday.

The US has had an extradition treaty with Italy since 1984 and has denied at least several requests since then.

Mary Fan, a former federal prosecutor, suggested that any decision by the State Department on whether to return Knox to Italy is "a matter of both law and politics".

Additional reporting by Reuters