January 07, 2020

British teenager in Cyprus gang rape case handed four-month suspended jail sentence
A British teenager convicted of lying about being gang-raped by a group of Israeli tourists in a Cyprus holiday resort was on her way home to the UK on Tuesday after the judge in the case gave her a four-month suspended sentence. But her lawyers vowed to appeal the conviction at the Cyprus Supreme Court and said they were determined to clear her name – a process that could take years. The 19-year-old shook her head as the sentence was read out, looking nervous and tearful. She was put on trial after Cypriot police accused her of lying about being gang-raped in the hedonistic resort of Ayia Napa in July. Last week the judge found her guilty of a charge of causing public mischief with the allegedly false claim. As judge Michalis Papathanasiou read out the sentence, protesters outside chanted “Cyprus justice, shame on you,” and “Blame the rapist, not the victim.” The Cypriot and Israeli protesters, most of them women, held up placards saying they believed the British teenager’s account of being pinned down and raped by an unknown number of Israelis in an Ayia Napa hotel room on July 17. Activists take part in a demonstration, after a British woman was found guilty of faking a rape claim, outside the Famagusta courthouse in Paralimni Credit: Reuters In his sentencing remarks, the judge said the charge of public mischief was a serious crime, saying the young woman had falsely incriminated 12 Israeli men, who were arrested immediately after the alleged attack. He insisted that there had been “no rape at all” and that the testimony she gave the court was “false”. But he said he had decided to hand down a suspended sentence after taking into account the woman’s young age, her fragile emotional state and the fact that she had no criminal record before coming to Cyprus in the summer. The woman’s family says she suffered panic attacks after the alleged gang rape and now suffers from acute PTSD. "I admit, I have been troubled over this. All the evidence shows that she had lied and prevented the police from their other duties,” the judge told a packed court room in the town of Paralimni, a few miles from Ayia Napa’s beaches and bars. "Because of her testimony, 12 people were arrested and seven of them were there for at least 10 days. That was also a serious offence. They were deprived of their liberty." But he said the young woman from Derbyshire deserved a second chance. He also took into consideration the fact that she had spent more than a month in prison in Nicosia, the capital, after retracting her initial rape claims, and that since then she had been compelled to remain on the island after her passport was confiscated. That meant she had to forego a university place in the autumn. "This has led me to decide to give her a second chance and I’m suspending the sentence for three years." The judge also said the teenager had suffered grievously because of the intense publicity surrounding the case. “But these factors are not so big as to not apply the law,” said Mr Papathanasiou. If the woman committed another crime within three years in Cyprus, then she would find herself back in court, he said. The British teenager outside the court complex where she was found guilty of public mischief Credit: AP The teenager’s mother appeared on the steps of the court complex after the sentence was handed down, facing a scrum of cameramen, photographers and journalists from Britain, Israel and Cyprus. Initially she could barely be heard above the chanting of activists, who shouted “We believe her” and “Mr Judge, shame on you, don’t you have a daughter too?” Braving wet and windy weather, they held placards which read “Israelis believe you”, “You are not alone” and “No means no.” The mother said she was immensely relieved by the suspended sentence but insisted her daughter had not made up the rape claim. “We’re just very relieved that she can go home and get the treatment she needs (for PTSD). It was impossible to know what to expect,” she told The Telegraph. On the steps of the court complex, she told the crowd of protesters: “I want to thank you for having belief and faith in her. You all turning up here is so appreciated.” As the young woman was driven away in a car, protesters chanted “We believe you, yes we do, we will always stand with you.” The teenager told the court she retracted her initial statement because she was placed under immense pressure by Cypriot detectives. She said much of it had been dictated to her by an investigating officer and pointed out that it was written in poor, ungrammatical English. No part of the seven-hour questioning was recorded by the police. She said officers threatened to arrest all her friends in Cyprus if she did not sign the statement. The case has strained relations between Britain and Cyprus, with campaigners in the UK calling for a boycott of the island as a holiday destination. British tourists account for nearly a third of the 3.9 million tourists who visit Cyprus each year. Lewis Power QC, one of the teenager’s lawyers, said the investigation and trial had exposed a “gaping chasm” in how Cyprus deals with rape cases. The teenager said she was gang-raped in the beach resort of Ayia Napa in July  Credit: AFP He said there were international ramifications for how police and prosecutors deal with alleged victims of serious sexual assault. The teenager had been “happy and gregarious” when she arrived in Cyprus last summer but had within days found herself being transformed “from being victim to being accused.” “She is adamant of her innocence and that she has told the truth. Whilst we welcome the fact that the sentence imposed today allows her to go home, we strongly contest the conviction and the fight for her innocence will go on regardless. “We will be appealing the conviction and will take this case to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and are prepared to fight this case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.” The case had “highlighted a gaping chasm in the compassionate treatment of sexually assaulted female victims,” Mr Power said. “In this case there was a failure which led to a catastrophic situation with the victim finding herself as the accused. This case has far-reaching repercussions for women travelling abroad and has highlighted the need for appropriate representation.” Supporters said the fact that the woman was convicted of lying about the gang-rape was a “a disgrace”. “It’s a problem we face across the island,” Mine Atli, a Turkish Cypriot lawyer and women’s rights activist, told The Telegraph outside court. “There’s a belief that women are lying and that even if they are not, rapists don’t deserve long sentences. “This case should never have gone to court. It’s a disgrace that she was prosecuted and even more of a disgrace she was convicted.” The police should be investigated for their conduct in the case, and in particular their failure to record the teenager’s seven-hour questioning, she said. Irad Martsiano Tsaiger, an Israeli women’s rights activist, said: “This is still not justice. This case will not go away quietly.” Protesters chant in support of the teenager outside the court house in Paralimni Credit: AP She said many people suspected that the strong commercial links between Cyprus and Israel, particularly in the exploration of oil and gas reserves in the Mediterranean, played a role in the swift release of the Israeli men. “The boys were released very fast. They were not even investigated for uploading a video of one of them having sex with the girl. The police in Cyprus and Israel did nothing about that. The boys should have been prosecuted for revenge porn.” Sigal Kook Avivi, an Israeli human rights activist, said: “We are very worried that the conviction stands because it opens the door for the Israelis to sue her if they want to. “This is not an isolated case. We believe it has lessons for what happens to women all around the world.”
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