UK

Ayia Napa Briton sentenced over false rape claim

Protests outside the court in Cyprus Image copyright EPA

A British teenager has been given a four-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of lying about gang-rape in Cyprus.

The 19-year-old hugged her family and left court weeping after she was sentenced for public mischief.

Her sentence was suspended for three years, and she has been ordered to pay €148 (£125) in legal fees. The teenager now plans to return to the UK.

Women’s rights groups protested outside court ahead of the sentencing.

In Famagusta District Court on Tuesday, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told her he was giving her a “second chance”.

BBC correspondent Anna Holligan said the puffy-eyed teenager embraced her mother as chants of “we believe you” and “no means no” could be heard inside the courtroom from the protest outside.

Supporters from Cyprus and a group of 50 women who travelled from Israel gathered outside court holding placards.

The teenager’s mother shouted “she’s coming home” to the group following sentencing, and told reporters she felt “relieved”.

Addressing the crowd outside court, the teenager’s mother said: “I just want to thank each and every one of you for turning up today, having belief, having faith and making sure we get justice.”

The 19-year-old was convicted following a trial after recanting a claim that she was raped in a hotel room in July.

The woman has said Cypriot police made her falsely confess to lying about the incident at a hotel – something police have denied.

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Media caption“We’re pleased she’s going home”, lawyer Lewis Power QC says

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “relieved” that she was returning to the UK “to begin the process of recovery given all that she has been through”.

He added that he would be following up “some of the issues” in relation to the case. “I spoke to the Cypriot foreign minister about that,” he told reporters at RAF Northolt.

The woman’s lawyer, Lewis Power QC, said she would be returning to the UK on Tuesday.

Speaking to BBC News, he said the case was “not finished by any means” and that he would be appealing the conviction.

He said: “We will be seeking an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and we will also be considering going to the European Court of Human Rights.

“We do not feel we have had justice in terms of how the trial progressed, the manner in which it was conducted, the initial police investigation and the fact that we feel she did not receive a fair trial.”

During sentencing, the judge said he was “troubled” about the case.

“All the evidence shows that she had lied and prevented the police from doing other serious jobs,” he said.

“Twelve people were arrested and seven of them were there for at least 10 days. That was also a serious offence.

“Her psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends and academic studies this year.

“This has led me to decide to give her a second chance and suspend the sentence for three years.”

Israeli lawyer Nir Islovich, who represented four of the 12 men in the case, welcomed the decision. “What was important to us was that she would be convicted of the charges brought against her,” he said.

“That happened with full adoption of the facts as presented by my clients. As for clemency, we strongly oppose it and will act against it if she will not express genuine remorse.”

‘Backward thinking’

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Orit Sulitzeanu (right) with supporters from Israel

Protesters outside court insisted that the woman should never have been convicted.

Orit Sulitzeanu, head of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, told BBC News the conviction was “unbelievable” and that she and others had travelled to Cyprus from Israel to lend their support to the teenager.

“She is not to blame at all,” Ms Sulitzeanu said. “This sentence reflects backward thinking and not understanding the dynamics of rape. The judge here must learn what happens to the victim of sexual abuse.”

She added: “This is a young lady, she will go to university, she will go to have a job and she has a criminal offence. It will influence her life. This four-months suspended sentence is bad from the beginning.”

Susana Pavlou, director at the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies in Cyprus, said the case had sparked a “culture of protest” in the country.

“This year it has been revealed how broken our criminal justice system is – broadly in terms of police and social services response to violence against women, and the lack of specialist services.

“It’s heartening to see how this has ignited women’s rights campaigners and a women’s rights movement focusing on this issue.

“This is not going to go away, we will not be silenced.”

The teenager had contacted police hours after claiming to have been raped on 17 July at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel.

Twelve men were arrested in connection with the allegations but were later freed and returned home, after the woman retracted her claims.

She was later charged and spent about a month in prison before being granted bail in August.

The women then appeared in court facing charges of public mischief by falsely accusing the group of raping her, to which she pleaded not guilty.

The trial began at the start of October – with the verdict delayed until December.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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