Cyprus government defends courts after criticism of Briton's rape claim trial

UK Foreign Office expresses ‘serious concern’ about fairness of case

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 31 December 2019 18:06
British teenager found guilty of lying about Cyprus gang-rape

The government of Cyprus has defended its courts after the Foreign Office (FCO) said it was “seriously concerned” about the fairness of a trial in which a British teenager was found guilty of lying about being gang-raped.

A spokesperson said the island’s government had “full confidence in the justice system and the courts” after the FCO said it would raise the “deeply distressing case” with Cypriot authorities.

Rights groups and lawyers have criticised the justice system after the 19-year-old woman was convicted of public mischief at a district court in Paralimni on Monday.

“The Republic of Cyprus as an orderly state has constitutionally established institutions and separation of powers,” the spokesperson said. “In this context, the government does not intervene in cases brought before the competent courts of the Republic of Cyprus, nor does it comment on positions or allegations which are raised with respect to cases still pending before the courts.

“The government has full confidence in the justice system and the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, which should be left unfettered to implement state laws and deliver justice.”

The teenager had alleged she was raped by 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in Ayia Napa on 17 July.

But she was charged and the young men, aged between 15 and 20, were freed after she retracted her accusation 10 days later.

The woman claimed in court she had been raped but was forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police.

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said he believed the woman had made false allegations because she felt “embarrassed” after realising she had been filmed having sex in a video found on some of the Israelis’ mobile phones.

“The defendant gave police a false rape claim, while having full knowledge that this was a lie,” he said.

“There was no rape, or violence, and police had carried out a thorough investigation making all necessary arrests.”

The woman, who has been on bail since the end of August after spending a month in prison, could face up to a year behind bars and a €1,700 (£1,500) fine when she is sentenced on 7 January.

Her lawyers said they would appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court of Cyprus and the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The teenager said that she was “dedicated to seeking true justice”, while her mother described the verdict as “absolutely astonishing” and said her daughter was “effectively in a gilded cage” as she awaits sentencing on the island.

Speaking to The Sun, the teenager said she was not surprised by the verdict.

“We expected this almost from the very start,” she said. “One moment I was the victim, the next, I was the accused.

“Eight hours of interrogation, denied access to a lawyer – while those accused of raping me had legal representation immediately.”

Meanwhile, her mother told ITV News: “It would be an absolute injustice if they decide to imprison her for any more days than the four-and-a-half weeks she’s already spent in prison.

“I will fully support her 100 per cent as will her lawyers so we’ll continue on with appeal and go down that route, if we end up in the European Court of Human Rights that’s great.”

An FCO spokesperson said: “The UK is seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case and we will be raising the issue with the Cypriot authorities.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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