ROME Feb. 15, 2011 -- The parents of Amanda Knox were ordered by an Italian judge today to stand trial for libel for saying in a newspaper interview that their daughter had been mistreated by homicide police during a night-long interrogation.
Knox is appealing her murder conviction for the 2007 stabbing death of roommate Meredith Kercher. Part of her defense is that she was abused by police who grilled her for hours without an attorney present. She also claims the police cuffed her on the back of the head, denied her food and water, and yelled at her.
During that overnight interrogation, Knox told police that she had a "vision" that she was in the cottage when Kercher was killed and heard her scream, placing herself at the scene of the crime. Although Knox tried to retract the statement the next morning, it was used as evidence against her in her trial which resulted in a 26 year prison term.
Knox, who is from Seattle, has since been charged with slander for saying the police was abusive.
Her parents, who repeated their daughter's explanation in an interview with Sunday Times of London in 2009, have now also been ordered tried for libel.
The trial date for the parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, was set for July 4 in Perugia, Italy.
The preliminary hearing judge charged that "in particular, they said, contrary to the truth, that Amanda had not been assisted by an interpreter, that she hadn't been given food or water, that she had been abused both physically and verbally," and finally "that she had been slapped on the back of the head and threatened," according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
Libel is a criminal charge in Italy that carries a sentence of six months to three years, as well as a fine. If convicted the parents would be unlikely to serve any time since they have no previous judicial record.
The libel case will be a rematch of lawyers from the murder case. Curt Knox and Edda Mellas are being represented by Luciano Ghirga and Maria Del Grosso, who are also defending Amanda Knox in the murder appeal.
Five members of the Perugia police force, who are civil plaintiffs in the case, are represented by Francesco Maresca, who is also representing the Kercher family in the Knox murder trial.
Now Amanda Knox's Parents Face Trial in Italy
Knox was 20 when Kercher was sexually assaulted and her neck slashed in the cottage she shared with Knox and two Italian women on Nov. 1, 2007.
Knox, who is now 23, claims she spent the night with her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Both were convicted of taking part in the murder based partly on forensic evidence that included DNA from both Knox and Kercher on a knife found in Sollecito's kitchen.
A third person, Ivory Coast drifter Rudy Guede, was also convicted of taking part in the murder. His sentenced was reduced to 16 years on appeal.
On another legal front Knox's parents are threatening legal action to block a Lifetime channel movie about the murder, "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy."
A trailer and images from a press screener for the Lifetime channel movie, which airs Feb. 21, has upset both Knox's family as well as the family of Meredith Kercher.
Video from the movie trailer indicates there are graphic scenes in the movie. One quick segment shows Kercher stripped down to her bra, pinned to the floor and screaming as she is groped by the men playing Sollecito and Guede.
The trailer shows Knox, portrayed by Hayden Panettiere, in a steamy bed scene with Sollecito. At one point the Italian prosecutor states ominously, "Under the angel face, she is capable of anything."
Lifetime is owned in part by NBC Universal, Hearst and Disney, the parent company of ABC News.
"We have to act to protect Amanda, given the biased nature of the content in the trailer, and the unknown, and potentially harmful content of the actual film," Knox's step-father Chris Mellas told ABC News. "The movie harms Amanda's presumption of innocence as afforded her by the Italian constitution."