PERUGIA, Italy - In a jail-cell interview yesterday, Amanda Knox, the Washington state woman sentenced to a 26-year term for the murder of her British roommate, said she was "scared because I don't know what is going on."
Knox, 22, who is a cause célèbre in the United States among those who contend she was wrongly convicted by the Perugia court, received a 10-minute visit by two Italian lawmakers, prison officials, and a pair of reporters inside her 100-square-foot cell at Capanne prison, on the outskirts of Perugia.
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 Meredith Kercher was slain.
"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, Maria Cantwell, have led a vigorous campaign to convince Italian authorities she is innocent.
The visit was arranged by Fondazione Italia USA, which promotes close ties between the two countries, in an effort to heal any rift over accusations that Italy's justice system is not fair.
"My family is the most important thing for me. I also miss going to classes," she said. "I miss stimulating conversations."
She said she was 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's cell mate, who has been identified by other lawmakers in previous visits as a 53-year-old American woman from New Orleans serving a four-year sentence for a drug conviction, was not present during the visit.
The cell includes a private bathroom with shower, toilet, and bidet.
Knox has been jailed for two years, since her arrest a few days after the slaying of Kercher in the house the two students shared.
Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in the bedroom of the house in Perugia, a university town in Umbria, central Italy. Prosecutors said the Leeds University student was slain the previous night.
Three people, including Knox's Italian former boyfriend, have been convicted of sexual assault and murder.
"I am waiting and always hoping," Knox said, switching from English into 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, Knox recalled her emotions on Dec. 5, when shortly after midnight the judge read out 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.