(ANSA) - ROME, NOV 23 - Rudy Guede, an Ivorian drifter convicted of murdering British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007, became a free man Tuesday after he was released with three years off a 16-year prison term.
A Viterbo surveillance court judge released Guede, who will be 35 on Boxing Day, awarding him an early release 14 years after the November 1 2007 murder of 21-year-old London-born Leeds University student Kercher.
A year ago Guede was entrusted to the social services to do community service instead of jail time for the remaining year or so of his sentence.
Guede was 20 years old at the time of the murder in the Umbrian capital.
He is the only person definitively convicted of killing the British exchange student after the Italian supreme court acquitted two other former suspects, American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, overturning an earlier conviction.
The Ivorian, who has maintained his innocence, made an unsuccessful bid for his case to be reviewed after Knox and Sollecito were cleared.
The explanation of the supreme court's conviction of Guede said he was not the only person involved, saying the unidentified other or others should be found.
Guede's DNA was found inside Kercher and all over the murder scene.
Knox and Sollecito's initial conviction was based on DNA evidence that was later ruled unsafe, leading to their final acquittal.
Guede said he went into a "state of shock" after finding Kercher dead following a visit to the bathroom after meeting her on the night she was killed.
He fled the country and was arrested in Germany a few days after the murder. In September 2019 Guede was granted daytime release from jail to collaborate with the Centre for Criminological Studies in Viterbo for a few hours each day while returning to prison in the town north of Rome every evening.
The end of Guede's term was initially calculated to be January 4 next year but the surveillance judge's decision brought it back to November 20, three days ago, spelling his immediate release. Guede's legal expert said his client "only wants to be forgotten" now.
Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca told ANSA "from a moral standpoint, of concrete and effective justice, clearly the term he served was very low with respect to the tragic nature of the event".
Knox and Sollecito were arrested five days after Kercher was found in a pool of blood in the flat she shared with the American, and they were convicted by a court of first instance, but this conviction was subsequently overturned. The appeal sentence was then thrown out by the Court of Cassation, Italy's supreme court, which ordered a new trial on appeal leading to their re-conviction in 2014. Knox and Sollecito were eventually acquitted definitively by the supreme court the following year.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italy violated Knox's right to defence when she was questioned.
In June 2019 Knox, 34, returned to Italy for the first time since she was acquitted, addressing a criminal justice festival in Modena on wrongful convictions.
Ten years after the murder Knox had said she still misses her former flatmate. "Ten years ago tonight, my friend was raped and murdered by a burglar when she was home alone in the apartment we shared while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy," Knox wrote in a piece published by WestsideSeattle.com on November 1, 2017.
"I hate it that my memories of her are buried beneath the years of suffering Raffaele and I endured in the wake of her murder. And it's depressing to know that mourning her comes at the price of being criticized for anything I say or don't say today. But most depressing of all is that Meredith isn't here, when she deserves to be. She is painfully missed by everyone who loved her. I miss her, and I'm grateful for the memories of our time together".
Sollecito, 37, said after Guede's release Tuesday that "there remains bitterness that he never repented" and said that he, Sollecito, had risked serving time for something I would never have dreamed of even thinking, due to his lies". He added: " don't argue with the prison term because that was the sentence and we all respect the law".