British teen in rape trial gets suspended jail term in South of Cyprus
A British teenager accused of faking a gang rape allegation was given a suspended sentence by a court in South of Cyprus on Jan. 7 in a case which has prompted a rare rebuke from Britain and protests from activists who say she did not get a fair trial.
The 19-year-old has said she was coerced into withdrawing her complaint that she was raped in July 2019 by a group of Israeli youths in Ayia Napa, a holiday resort popular with teenagers.
She was convicted on Dec. 30 of public mischief, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, a fine, or both, after the court found she had filed a fake report about being sexually assaulted.
Dressed in black and standing silently before the judge in a packed courtroom the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sentenced on Jan. 7 to four months in jail, suspended for three years.
Raising his voice over chants from outside the courtroom in support of the woman, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said he took into account her age, clean criminal record and remorse, and said he was giving her a “second chance”.
“All mitigating factors were taken into account but it does not negate the seriousness of the offence,” Papathanasiou said, noting that 12 individuals had been briefly detained on the basis of her accusation.
Outside, a group of about 150 women demonstrated, shouting “blaming the victim is the second rape” and “Cyprus justice shame on you”. They included almost 60 activists from Israel who had flown in specifically to support the woman.
Police ordered window blinds in the courtroom to be pulled down to block the sight of protesters who crowded onto a ledge shouting slogans.
“We are here to raise social awareness of rape. There is no justice here,” said Israeli activist Dana Salmon.
Lawyers for the woman say she will appeal to clear her name.
“The fight for her innocence will go on regardless,” said Lewis Power QC, who was assisting the local defense team. “We will maintain this young girl was stripped of her dignity and basic human rights.”
The woman insists that an attack took place and that she was pressured to withdraw her complaint during overnight questioning from police and with no lawyer present. One defense witness, a former state forensic pathologist, said her injuries were consistent with rape.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has ‘very serious concerns’ about the treatment of the woman, who had been banned from leaving the island and who her lawyers say is suffering from post-traumatic stress.
The case has shone a harsh spotlight on Greek Cypriots tourism culture, which is popular with British holidaymakers, and prompted calls to boycott the island.
Holidaymakers should boycott Greek Cypriot Administration, the young woman’s mother said.
Twelve Israeli youths who were detained for questioning were swiftly released after the woman recanted her accusation. They were not required to give any evidence at the woman’s trial.
Greek Cypriot newspapers have reported that authorities were poised to give a presidential pardon. A senior government source told Reuters that was premature and would depend on the court sentencing, but that Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades was following the case closely.
Lawyers for the woman say they will press ahead with an appeal regardless because a pardon would not expunge her criminal record.