An Italian court upheld the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, Thursday. The high court overturned the 2011 acquittal.

Knox’s future is still uncertain because there is another level of appeal that can take place, but the Italian court said Thursday — through a translator — that Amanda Knox is “illegally in her own country,” and that they revoked Sollecito’s passport.

Knox and Sollecito have traversed the Italian law enforcement and court system since 2007 after the suspicious death of British student Meredeth Kercher in Perugia.

Knox conviction upheld, acquittal overturned by Italian high court

Amanda Knox’s murder conviction was upheld at her third major trial in Italy. (Credit: Getty Images)

The pair were initially convicted in 2009, and were then acquitted on appeal in 2011. Knox and Sollecito spent four years in custody before the court ruled important evidence regarding blood and DNA had been handled improperly by investigators, reported USA Today:

Italy’s supreme court — called the Court of Cassation — dismissed that ruling based on what it said was key evidence that had been omitted during the appeal. A Florence appeals panel was subsequently designated by Italy’s supreme court to address issues it raised about the acquittal.

Knox, 26, heard the verdict half a world away in Seattle, where she returned after spending several years in jail before being acquitted in 2011 in Kercher’s murder. In an email to this court, Knox wrote that she feared a wrongful conviction.

Knox’s absence did not formally hurt her case since she was freed by a court and defendants in Italy are not required to appear at their trials. However, Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini reacted sternly to her emailed statement, noting that defendants only have a right to be heard if they appear physically before the panel.

Sollecito, on the other hand, made frequent court appearances and was in court again Thursday, accompanied by his father and other relatives, but left before the final verdict. Sollecito now risks immediate arrest. The situation for Knox remains complicated by her absence; experts have said it is unlikely Italy would seek her extradition until a verdict is finalized, a process that can take a year.

Members of Kercher’s family were present for the verdict declaration.

The first trial court found Knox and Sollecito guilty of murder and sexual assault based on DNA evidence, confused alibis and Knox’s false accusation against a Congolese bar owner, which resulted in a slander verdict that has been upheld on final appeal. A Perugia appeals court dismantled the guilty verdict two years later, criticizing the “building blocks” of the conviction, including DNA evidence now deemed unreliable by new experts, and the lack of motive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Story has been updated.

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.