The long-awaited trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito began on Friday in Perugia, Italy for their alleged role in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

Nearly 200 journalists and photographers crammed into the small Umbrian courtroom to catch a glimpse of the American student and her former boyfriend as they prepared to stand trial. Knox, 21, who has been described by the Italian media as a curious mix of femme-fatale and innocent-faced youngster, looked relaxed from the outset while Sollecito, 24, seemed overwhelmed by the media attention.

The prosecution alleges that the pair killed Meredith Kercher after she refused to take part in a drug-fuelled orgy at their house. Kercher, who was a student from the University of Leeds, was studying in the town as part of the Erasmus exchange programme.

She was found on the floor of her bedroom in the cottage which she shared with Knox and two other Italians in November 2007. She was semi-naked with bruises and a stab wound to her neck.

Knox and Sollecito deny any involvement, saying they weren’t at the cottage at the time of her murder. A third suspect, Rudy Guede, was granted a fast-track trial in October in which he was given 30 years in prison for his role.

Both Knox’s and Sollecito’s lawyers used Friday’s hearing to plead their clients’ innocence. Kercher’s family had requested that the trial be behind closed doors due to the disturbing sexual nature of some of the evidence. The Judge however denied the request saying that all proceedings would be open to the media.
The trial has been adjourned until February.

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