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American student takes the stand in her murder trial

Sex, drugs, and international cast make a high-profile case in Italy.

PERUGIA, Italy - An American student accused of murdering her British roommate took the stand for the first time yesterday, telling an Italian court in a quavering voice that she saw the victim hours before the killing, then went to her boyfriend's house for the night.

Prosecutors say Meredith Kercher, 21, was killed after returning home from an outing with friends on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007. They say she opened the door for her roommate, Amanda Knox of Seattle, and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

Sometime later that night, prosecutors say, Kercher was killed in what began as a sex game, with Sollecito holding her by the shoulders from behind while Knox touched her with the point of a knife.

Kercher's bloody body was found the next day in the apartment the women shared in Perugia, central Italy.

The case has drawn wide interest, and the presiding judge, making a brief exception to the no-cameras rule, allowed filming for Knox's testimony - only to ask them to leave a few minutes later for causing too much disruption. The cameras were then crammed in the press room, where proceedings were being shown on a screen.

Alternating between English and Italian, Knox, 21, told the court that she last saw Kercher on the afternoon of Nov. 1. They talked about their Halloween night out, she said.

Sollecito then arrived at the apartment and he and Knox had something to eat while Kercher was in her room, Knox told the court.

"She left her room, said 'bye,' walked out the door," Knox said, at this point speaking Italian. "That was the last time I saw her."

She told the court that she and Sollecito had gone to his house, where they stayed until morning. After dinner, they went upstairs, she said.

"I sat on the bed, he sat at his desk, he prepared the joint and then we smoked it together," she said. "First we made love, then we fell asleep."

Knox and Sollecito have been jailed since shortly after the slaying. They are charged with murder and sexual violence and could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Sollecito, 25, has said he was at his own apartment the entire night of Nov. 1, mainly working at his computer. He said he did not remember if Knox spent the night or just part of it. The two have said they could not remember events clearly because they had taken drugs.

Knox also repeated accusations that she was beaten by police and confused when she was questioned in the days after the killing. Police have denied any misconduct.

After the killing, Knox accused Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, a Congolese man who owns a pub in Perugia, of being the culprit. He was jailed briefly but is no longer a suspect and is seeking defamation damages from Knox.

The trial began in January and a verdict is expected after a summer break.

A third suspect in the case, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was found guilty of murder and sexual violence and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.