PERUGIA, Italy, Nov. 28, 2009, -- The parents of Amanda Knox arrived in Italy Thursday to support their daughter in the final days of her trial for murder, and were promptly informed by Italian authorities that they are under investigation for defamation -- allegedly for accusing police of beating Amanda.
In a June 2008 interview with the British Sunday Times newspaper, the two said that Amanda was "abused physically and verbally" by police in the course of an interrogation. They also told the Sunday Times that Amanda told them that she "was hit in the back of the head by a police officer with an open hand at least twice."
Amanda Knox's parents, who are divorced but have kept a united front during their daughter's trial, are puzzled by this latest development, and do not want it to take attention away from the trial's final days.
"Why now?" asks Edda Mellas.
"The timing is suspect since it comes 18 months after the fact and right before the end of the trial," she told ABC News outside of court today.
"We don't have the file yet, so we cannot comment on it, but in that interview we just repeated what Amanda told us, and what she herself later said in court," Mellas said.
Mellas also pointed out that "you have to name someone" in order to be accused of defamation, but they never named anyone, she said.
Police deny mistreating Knox. Defamation through the press carries a sentence of six months to three years in prison and a fine. A person without a police record is unlikely to serve prison time, however.
Prosecutors in Perugia, Italy, last week asked for life in prison for Amanda Knox, 22, and her co-defendant and former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 25. They are accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, who was 21 at the time of her death.
On Friday, Kercher's family requested the equivalent of about $36 million in damages from the three people who are accused of killing her, including Knox, who would be liable for $12 million.
Kercher's body was discovered on the morning of Nov. 2, 2007, in her room in the cottage she shared with Knox and two Italian women. Kercher had multiple cuts to her throat, and died from a combination of strangulation and suffocating on her own blood.
Police Officers Decided to File Lawsuit in September 2008
A third person, Ivorian Rudy Guede, had already been convicted to 30 years in prison for his role in the murder, which prosecutors maintain was carried out by all three young people in a drug enhanced sexual encounter that escalated into murder.
The accusation against Curt Knox and Edda Mellas is being brought by an unspecified number of Perugia police officers, who were present at Knox's interrogation Nov. 5, 2007, four days after Kercher was killed. According to the ANSA news agency, the police officers decided to take legal action in September 2008 after the article appeared on various web sites.
Knox and Mellas told ABC News that Friday was the first time they heard about it.
Amanda Knox was in court again today in Perugia, attending one of the last hearings in her trial for murder. Neither she nor Sollecito have missed a hearing since the trial started last January.
Knox's extended family -- her parents have both remarried -- was sitting behind her. It included her father Curt and stepmother Cassandra Knox, and her mother Edda Mellas with her husband, Chris. Knox's aunt is also in Perugia.
Knox smiled at her family as she entered court, looking a little less tense than in recent days when the prosecution was making its case against her and depicting her as the knife-wielding mastermind of the murder.
Today was the first day of closing arguments for the defense, which began with Luca Maori, one of two lawyers for Raffaele Sollecito.
Maori placed the responsibility for the crime squarely on Rudy Guede, and then spent six hours rebutting the evidence presented against Sollecito by the prosecution.
"We already have the guilty person," Maori told the court, "and that is Rudy Guede. The DNA is his, as are the fingerprints, and the footprints," Maori said.
Maori defended Sollecito's character, saying he is a person friends describe as a "quiet, shy and romantic" young man.
Sollecito "is the second victim in this affair," Maori told the court.
New Evidence Presented by Sollecito Lawyer: Two Spots Found Under Kercher 'Not Tested'
Sollecito's lawyer meticulously reviewed the evidence and witness testimony presented by the prosecution, including the two main pieces of evidence investigators say put him on the scene of the crime: his DNA on the victim's bra hook and a bloody footprint police say is compatible with his foot.
He reiterated what was said repeatedly in the course of the trial: that the DNA on the bra is probably due to contaminated evidence, and the footprint, according to Maori, belongs to Guede.
Maori also introduced a new bit of evidence he says defense experts discovered: a biological substance visible on the pillow found in the victim's room, which Maori's experts believe to be semen. He said the substance was never tested by the forensic police.
"Why were the two spots visible on the pillow found under the victim not tested?" Maori asked when speaking to journalists outside the courtroom. "The crime against Kercher was sexual," Maori added, "but no one tested those stains."
In the course of the trial, investigators said no semen was found on the scene of the crime, though injuries to the victim, and the fact that she was found naked from the waist up, indicated she had been sexually assaulted. Rudy Guede's DNA was found on Kercher's body.
The trial resumes on Monday, and lawyers for Knox will make their case in closing arguments Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.
A verdict is expected on Dec. 4 or Dec. 5.