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Jailed American student Amanda Knox scared, misses going to classes

PERUGIA, Italy — Amanda Knox sounded casual, surprised even, by the simple question as it came through the door of her prison cell in English on Sunday: "How are you?"

"Okay, thanks. How are you guys?" said the American student, who had been sentenced eight days earlier to 26 years in prison for the murder of her British roommate. But minutes later, Knox confided, in answer to a question from an Associated Press reporter in her cell: "I am scared because I don't know what is going on."

The 22-year-old, who is a cause celebre in the United States among those who contend she was wrongly convicted by the Perugia court, received a 10-minute visit inside the nearly 100-square-foot two-bed cell by two Italian lawmakers, prison officials and a pair of reporters in Capanne prison on the outskirts of Perugia.

She has been jailed for two years since she was arrested a few days after the slaying of Meredith Kercher in the house the two shared in this medieval town.

"I am waiting and always hoping," Knox said, switching from English to Italian for the delegation. "I don't understand many things, but I have to accept them, things that for me don't always seem very fair."

Toward the end of the visit, she recalled her emotions on Dec. 5, when shortly after midnight the judge read the verdict after a nearly yearlong trial: "I was feeling horrendous" upon being convicted.

"The guards helped me out. They held me all night," she said.

In Italian jails, inmates can wear their own clothing, and Knox wore a gray-and-white-flecked turtleneck sweater, black legging trousers, white socks and black slippers. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

The visitors, who included a reporter from the Italian news agency ANSA, were not allowed to ask questions about the trial itself. No cameras or tape recorders were permitted.

Knox spoke about her affection for her family and her determination to continue her university studies, the reason she came to Perugia a few months before Kercher's slaying.

"I believe in my family. They are telling me to stay calm," Knox said. Her family, as well as a senator from her home state of Washington, Maria Cantwell, have spearheaded a vigorous campaign to convince authorities she is innocent. The visit was arranged by Fondazione Italia USA, which promotes close relations between the countries, in an effort to heal any rift over accusations that Italy's justice system is unfair.

"My family is the most important thing for me. I also miss going to classes," she said. "I miss stimulating conversations."

She said she is in contact with her professors. "We are trying to work out how I can talk to them," she added, noting that while she can write letters from prison, e-mail access is forbidden.

Knox shares her cell, which includes a private bathroom with shower, toilet and bidet, with a woman identified by lawmakers in previous visits as a 53-year-old American from New Orleans serving a four-year sentence for a drug conviction. She wasn't present.

Shortly after her visitors left, just before lunch time, Knox sat on her bed, reading handwritten papers. When she heard the delegation leaving the corridor, she looked up, waved and said, "Ciao."

Jailed American student Amanda Knox scared, misses going to classes 12/13/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 13, 2009 9:02pm]

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