FLORENCE, Italy - US student Amanda Knox's former Italian lover Raffaele Sollecito described their "fairy tale" love as he protested his innocence on Wednesday at their trial for the murder of a British student.
"I have been described as a ruthless killer but I am nothing of the sort," Sollecito told the court in Florence where he was appearing for the first time, pausing frequently during a rambling address to control his emotions.
"Amanda was my first love," he said, adding: "Amanda was carefree. She and I wanted to be isolated in our nest of desire in a little fairy tale."
"We were thinking of anything but the distorted, scornful vision of humanity of which we are being accused by the whole world," he said.
"I want you to understand how absurd the accusations against us are."
Sollecito had been on an extended holiday in the Dominican Republic, which has no extradition agreement with Italy, and his attendance had been uncertain.
"He has come to show that he is not running away," Sollecito's lawyer Luca Maori told reporters before the start of the hearing.
Sollecito said he had been in the Caribbean to "get away from the spotlight".
"I am the victim of a crazy persecution that for me has no logic and seems like an unimaginable nightmare. If this story was not real, it would be difficult to believe," he said, adding: "I don't really have a life any more."