By Deepa Babington
PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - Amanda Knox's former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito is "very scared" but hopeful an Italian court will absolve him of murder, his father said.
Knox and Sollecito, 27, were found guilty of murdering British student Meredith Kercher during what prosecutors said was a drug-fueled sexual assault in 2007 that ended with the American stabbing her roommate while her accomplices pinned down the victim.
Sollecito, who began dating Knox just over a week before the murder, was sentenced to 25 years in jail. He and Knox, who got 26 years, are appealing their sentences and a verdict in the trial is expected on Monday.
"He's scared. It's clear he's very scared," said his father Francesco Sollecito, a well-known urologist often seen outside the Perugia courthouse smoking a cigar.
"But he is hopeful of the right verdict," he told Reuters.
A third man, small-time Ivorian drug dealer Rudy Guede, was also jailed for taking part in the murder. But most of the attention in the case has revolved around Knox, with Sollecito's lawyer dubbing the trial "Amanda-centric."
The computer student from the southern coastal town of Giovinazzo in Puglia has been depicted by prosecutors as a naive young man bewitched and led astray by Knox.
His lawyers argue he was a convenient suspect because he happened to be dating Knox at the time.
His chances of freedom were boosted by a forensics review that said traces of Sollecito's DNA found on Kercher's bra clasp were unreliable and could have been contaminated since they were collected weeks after the murder was committed.
"I am hopeful that the court has heard well the arguments presented in the appeals trial and has realized that there isn't any evidence against my son and Amanda," said the older Sollecito.
His son has been cast as a "very strange follower" of the American, he said. Kercher, a student of Leeds University in northern England, was on a year abroad studying in Perugia when she was killed in November 2007.
Sollecito, whose once shaggy hair is now cropped short, usually sits in court chewing gum or listening impassively while cameras frantically click away at Knox sitting a few places away.
The focus has been on salacious details related to Knox's sex life, but Sollecito won his share of infamy when a photo posted on the Internet showed him wrapped in bandages holding a meat cleaver and a bottle of bleach. He has also been described as a knife collector.
Film of him kissing Knox, now 24, after the murder and shopping for lingerie with her have been held up as evidence of the couple's callous attitude toward the gruesome crime.
The Italian's supporters see him differently. One website that accepts donations for Sollecito's Defense features pictures of a cherubic young boy at his baptism and birthday parties, and accounts from friends describing him as a loving, caring person.
Sollecito's father said he refused to speculate on why attention has focused on Knox rather than his son.
"All I know is that this is a very serious issue, because you have two kids that I believe are innocent who have spent four years in prison," said the father.
"I don't like at all, in any way, to feed speculation that favors one personality over another."