Update: An explosive case involving allegations of gang rape has taken another turn. The Supreme Court in Cyprus has overturned the conviction of a British woman who was convicted of making up rape allegations in 2019, reports the AP. The woman initially told police that a group of Israeli men raped her in Cyprus while she was on vacation. She later retracted the claim, then retracted her own retraction, saying she had been coerced into giving it. She was nevertheless convicted of fabricating the story and received a four-month sentence, which was suspended upon appeal. An earlier story from December 2019 follows:
An unnamed British 19-year-old made an explosive claim in July: that she was gang-raped by 12 Israelis in a hotel room in Cyprus. On Monday she was found guilty of "public mischief," or lying to officials about the rapes—which she now maintains did happen. Inside a case that has been closely watched in Britain, Cyprus, and Israel:
- The woman alleged that up to a dozen Israelis, who the New York Times reports were between the ages of 15 and 18, raped her on July 17 in the resort town of Ayia Napa. The AP reports she testified that she had been having sex with her boyfriend when the other men entered the room.
- But 10 days later she retracted her allegations. Investigators said the retraction came after they noticed inconsistencies in what she said. She subsequently claimed that her statement was made under duress, that she got the impression she could be arrested if she didn't sign it, and that she "even feared for her life."
- Cellphone video that reportedly shows her having consensual sex with her Israeli boyfriend was found on some of the men's phones. The BBC reports her lawyers say it shows the men ignoring her as she tells them to leave. In court, Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said the video is what propelled her false statement in the first place—that when she learned of its existence she felt embarrassed.
- Papathanasiou also characterized her testimony as "exaggerated, confused, contradictory, and incoherent."
- The Guardian quotes defense lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou as saying they will appeal. "The judge has been very strict. He has rejected all the witnesses of defense ... We are planning to appeal the decision to the supreme court, and if justice fails ... we are planning to take our case to the European court of human rights."
- Defense lawyer Michael Polak had more to say about Papathanasiou, per the Guardian: "Shutting down ... the production of evidence into the trial on a handful of occasions the judge stridently stated 'this is not a rape case, I will not consider whether she was raped or not.' We have found it incredibly difficult to follow this logic given that an essential element of the offense is for there to be a 'false statement concerning an imaginary offense' and therefore, clearly if the teenager was raped, she cannot be guilty."
- CNN has this from Polak about the woman's alleged treatment by authorities when she retracted her claim: "She wasn't allowed a lawyer, which is against European law, she didn't have a translator, she was suffering from PTSD."
- The Guardian reports the woman and her mother exited the court with white scarves tied around their mouth; each had the image of lips sewn shut and were created by protesters from the Network Against Violence Against Women.
- Her sentencing is set for Jan. 7. She faces up to a year behind bars and a fine of up to $1,900.
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