- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

PERUGIA, ITALY (AP) - An Albanian man told an Italian trial court in sometimes confusing testimony Saturday that an American student charged with the murder of her British roommate had brandished a knife outside their apartment house.

The presiding judge often interrupted Hekuran Kokomani asking him to speak up and be clearer, as the witness recalled seeing U.S. student Amanda Knox, her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and a suspect from the Ivory Coast in front of the apartment house in the university town of Perugia where the victim was killed.

Kokomani, described by prosecutors as a key witness, could not specify if he saw the three together the night in November 2007 when British student Meredith Kercher was stabbed to death in her bedroom.

Occasionally speaking in Albanian through a translator, and often mumbling, Kokomani said he was driving and then stopped in front of the building where he “bumped into a big black trash bag.”

The “bag” turned out to be Knox and Sollecito, Kokomani said, identifying the suspects in court. He then said he punched Sollecito, while Knox threatened him with a knife.

“This girl pulled out a 40-centimeter (16-inch) knife from a green bag and brandished it, saying, ‘Come here and I’ll show you,’” Kokomani said, gesturing with his hands. He said Knox was holding the knife above her head with both hands, but was not pointing it at him.

Kokomani said Sollecito tried to reassure him, saying “she’s a girl, she’s not doing anything.”

The Albanian testified with police officers standing behind him. He was arrested last month on drug charges.

At one point Kokomani testified that he “threw olives and a cell phone” at Knox after she showed him the knife and then maneuvered to drive away when he saw the Ivorian Rudy Hermann Guede.

Guede told Kokomani that the knife had been used to cut a cake during a party in the young women’s apartment, according to the Albanian.

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito read statements Kokomani gave police during questioning that appeared inconsistent with his version in court.

Prosecutors allege that Kercher, whose body was found Nov. 2, 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox, was killed during what began as a sex game. They say Sollecito held her by the shoulders from behind while Knox touched her with the point of a knife. They say Guede tried to sexually assault Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.

Knox and Sollecito deny wrongdoing. Guede was convicted of murder in a separate trial last year and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Knox laughed, shook her head and covered her face with her hands in what appeared to be disbelief when Kokomani testified that he saw her and Sollecito at a cafe with an unidentified American uncle of Knox, in summer 2007, when Knox and Sollecito had not yet met.

Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga dismissed Koromani’s testimony as “unreliable.” Prosecutors insisted he remains a key witness.

Also on Saturday, a witness told court that he saw Knox, Sollecito, Guede and Kercher walk out of the women’s apartment on Oct. 30, 2007, two days before the killing.

Fabio Gioffredi said he was “99 percent sure” he saw Guede. “They were all dressed in dark clothes, except for Amanda, who was wearing a red coat, with big buttons, 60s-style,” Gioffredi said.

Later Saturday, Sollecito denied ever meeting Guede.

Another prosecution witness, Antonio Curatolo, said he saw Knox and Sollecito “chatting, at times animatedly,” on a basketball court near the apartment house from about 9:30 p.m. to shortly before midnight the night the Briton was killed.

The 21-year-old Kercher is believed to have died between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2007, based on the autopsy and the accounts of friends with whom she had eaten dinner that night, court documents say.

(This version CORRECTS SUBS graf 1, and overline deleting phrase ‘at him’ to correct)

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