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February 1, 2014

Amanda Knox may be headed for an extradition fight

WASHINGTON — Roman Polanski. Edward Snowden. Manuel Noriega. Over the years, the famous and the infamous have been caught up in the legal process called extradition, which governs whether one country will turn over fugitives from justice to another country.

It may ultimately be the turn of Amanda Knox, whose murder conviction in the stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, raising the specter of a long extradition fight. She says she’ll never willingly go back to Italy.

The Knox case is special because it raises the question of whether the U.S. government would send one of its own citizens to a foreign country to face a long prison term.

The answer: It’s been done before, though in less high-profile cases involving the governments of Canada, Mexico and other nations.

The U.S. has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries, including Italy, providing what would appear to be a strong legal foundation in favor of a request for Knox’s return to Italy.

“It’s absolutely not the case that an individual will not be extradited just because they are a U.S. citizen,” says Douglas McNabb, an international criminal defense attorney and an expert in international extradition law.

Time is on the side of Knox’s lawyers. Proceedings could take up to a year to play out in the Italian courts.

If Italy were to file a provisional arrest warrant after the Italian proceedings end, Knox’s lawyers could take the U.S. government through a judicial process in the courts and an administrative process at the State Department, which would make the decision.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf declined comment Friday when asked whether the U.S. has received an extradition request for Knox from Italian authorities, saying that information is “private and confidential.” She said the State Department is monitoring the case as it works its way through the Italian legal system but refused to provide further details, such as whether Secretary of State John Kerry would make the final decision on Knox if Italy asks for her to be returned.

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