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‘Please bring me home’: British teenager convicted of lying about rape in Cyprus asks Boris Johnson to help

‘Every second of this ordeal has been a waking nightmare,’ says 19-year-old

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Friday 03 January 2020 13:11 GMT
British teenager found guilty of lying about Cyprus gang-rape

A British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang raped in Cyprus has pleaded with Boris Johnson to help secure her to return to the UK.

The 19-year-old woman, who alleged she was sexually assaulted by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party resort of Ayia Napa, faces a year in prison following her conviction this week.

A judge at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni ruled she had lied to police about the alleged assault on 17 July, but the teenager maintains she was forced by officers to sign a confession withdrawing the rape complaint.

The woman, who has had her passport confiscated by authorities, appealed to the British prime minister and foreign secretary Dominic Raab to “please bring me home”.

“Every second of this ordeal has been a waking nightmare,” said the teenager, who has not been named.

“I’m 19 and all I want to do is clear my name and come home to my family,” she told The Sun.

“I would say to both the foreign secretary and prime minister, both of whom are fathers, please support me with your actions, not just with your words.”

The woman, who will be sentenced on Tuesday, spent four and a half weeks in a prison in the capital Nicosia over the summer.

The Foreign Office reportedly contacted her family on Thursday for the first time since she was convicted.

Michael Polak, a British human right lawyer from Justice Abroad, a legal aid group providing help to the teen’s family, told The Independent she was a victim of a “grave injustice and should be pardoned”.

He added: “There are calls for the attorney general to take over her case and end it. We are calling for him to intervene.

“We believe she should never have been put on trial. We made written representations to the attorney general at the start asking him to discontinue proceedings.

“We want the teen to leave Cyprus without a conviction. A conviction will affect jobs she can do in the UK and associations and groups she can be a member of. The teenager has suffered a lot during and since being raped. She is determined to get justice in Cyprus or at the European Court of Human Rights if need be.”

Several prominent legal figures in Cyprus have written to attorney general Costas Clerides asking him to intervene in the case.​

One of them, Cypriot MP Kypros Chrysostomides, ​told BBC Breakfast: “The majority of the public in Cyprus feels that the young lady has already been punished enough. She has been in detention for four and a half weeks and she is not able to travel to England during the proceedings.

“We believe that the attorney general, who is the appropriate organ to exercise, initiate or discontinue criminal proceedings, should have done that already for the public interest.”

In October, a court heard the group of young Israeli men had been “aggressively” planning to have sex with the woman. The men were heard plotting in a “very bad way” to “do orgies” with the teenager, the court was told.

The young woman’s lawyers say she was raped and her retraction should not be allowed to be used as evidence because investigators pressured her and threatened her and her friends with arrest.

The UK Foreign Office has branded her conviction “deeply distressing” and said it was “seriously concerned” about the fairness of her trial, but the Cypriot government maintained it had “full confidence in the justice system and the courts” and argued they “should be left unfettered to implement state laws and deliver justice”.​

An online crowdfunding appeal to raise money for legal support for the teenager has passed £120,000, exceeding a £105,000 target.

The GoFundMe page was set up by British lawyer John Hobbs in August to raise cash for the young woman’s legal representation.

The young woman’s mother, who also cannot be identified for legal reasons, said her daughter was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and was sleeping 20 hours a day due to a condition called hypersomnia.

She supported calls for a tourism boycott of Cyprus and argued Ayia Napa was not a safe place.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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