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Cyprus court to sentence Briton over 'imaginary' gang-rape

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Paralimni (Cyprus) (AFP)

A Cypriot court is due Tuesday to sentence a British teenager convicted of falsely accusing a group of Israelis of gang-rape, in a case that has stirred protests in the UK.

The 19-year-old was found guilty last week and could face up to a year in jail, after what her defence team blasted as a litany of rights failings by Cypriot authorities.

Her lawyers are to lodge an appeal in the island's supreme court, while Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has "firmly and categorically registered" concerns with Cypriot officials.

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told the young woman "statements you have given were false", as he convicted her on December 30.

He said earlier in the trial that her account was beset by "contradictions, confusion, lack of logic and exaggeration".

Lawyers for the woman, whom AFP is not naming, say she was raped in the seaside resort of Ayia Napa by several Israeli teenagers in their hotel room on July 17.

She fled in distress to her own hotel and was examined by an in-house doctor, who called the police.

A group of Israeli teenagers were arrested and appeared in court, but 10 days after making a complaint of rape she was interviewed again by police and signed a retraction.

The boys were allowed to return to Israel and not called as witnesses.

Her Cypriot counsel, Nicoletta Charalambidou, told AFP that the woman had been called in on July 27 by a policewoman who had taken her initial complaint.

Male police officers "picked her up, locking the doors of the car".

She was then interrogated from early evening until the early hours of the next morning, when she signed the retraction.

The process was carried out in the absence of a translator or lawyer acting on her behalf, according to her legal team.

Police called in a female "welfare officer, who was there for some time... but the girl said she was not there during the retraction", Charalambidou said.

The woman was then arrested on charges of "making a false statement about an imaginary crime".

- ‘Minimum we can do’ -

Over 50 Israelis have flown to Cyprus to stand by the woman at the sentencing, partly out of disgust that the "boys returned to Israel as heroes", an activist told AFP.

"The minimum we can do is to be there to offer support, to show her that we believe her," said Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.

Dozens of people demonstrated in London on Monday to call on the British government to help the young woman.

The protesters, most of them women, gathered in front of the Cyprus High Commission before marching towards Downing Street and Parliament Square.

They held signs reading "We believe her" and "Boycott Cyprus".

Michael Polak, acting for the woman through British group Justice Abroad, told AFP by email that "the case has been littered with both investigatory and legal mistakes".

If the supreme court bid fails, appeals will be made to the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, he said.

The convicted British woman’s mother and legal team say she has been suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

An expert pathologist gave evidence that the state pathologist had omitted to note a number of injuries suffered by the woman, whose bruises he said were consistent with rape.

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