Italian Suspect in British Student's Slaying Receives University Degree in Prison

An Italian suspect in the slaying of a British student received his university degree Saturday in a Perugia prison where he and his American former girlfriend have been held for three months.

Raffaele Sollecito was awarded a degree in computer sciences after defending his thesis on genetic programming before a panel of professors who came to the prison.

In November, Sollecito, 23, and Amanda Knox, 20, were jailed as suspects in the slaying of Meredith Kercher.

The body of 21-year-old Kercher, stabbed in the neck, was found Nov. 2 in her bedroom in the flat she shared with Knox in Perugia, a university town known for its study programs for foreigners.

Both Knox and Sollecito have proclaimed their innocence in the slaying.

Sollecito has told prosecutors he was at his own Perugia apartment working on his computer in the hours when investigators contend that Kercher was sexually assaulted and slain.

The suspects have not been formally charged, and a judge has said they could be held for up to a year during the probe.

Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede is also jailed as a suspect in Perugia, following his extradition from Germany. Another suspect, Congolese pub owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, was released from jail but has not been formally cleared. They, too, deny, any wrongdoing.

Sollecito's lawyers and father brought him a gray pinstripe suit and a fresh shirt for his appointment with the professors, Italian news reports said.

Getting his degree "was very important, a victory," father Francesco Sollecito told reporters. He said that his son has enrolled in Verona university for a higher degree in computer sciences and that the young man hopes to emerge "from this nightmare" soon.