Briton appeals Cyprus 'false gang rape' conviction

Nicosia (AFP) –


Defence lawyers for a young British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped by Israeli tourists in Cyprus were to launch an appeal Thursday against her conviction.

The woman, who was 19 at the time of her arrest, alleged she was raped by up to 12 Israelis in a hotel room in the seaside party resort of Ayia Napa in July 2019.

She has accused Cypriot police of having forced her to sign a retraction statement, after which the Israeli suspects were released.

A district court in January 2020 convicted her of causing a public mischief, handing her a four-month jail term, suspended for three years.

Her lawyers, in their appeal before the island's supreme court which the unnamed woman will not attend, are to argue that the ruling was a miscarriage of justice.

UK-based Justice Abroad said the woman was suffering from PTSD and that her retraction, taken after she had spent almost seven hours in a police station without a lawyer present, "should never have been admitted" into evidence.

"The retraction statement should not have been allowed in the trial process," lawyer Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, told AFP.

"She was denied access to a lawyer, and there was no unambiguous waiver saying she didn’t want legal representation."

Polak said she was bullied into signing the retraction.

"The major problem when people are in Cyprus police custody is that nothing is recorded, there are no safeguards, no record of what actually happened," he said.

The appeal is also based on the trial judge having refused to accept evidence that a rape took place.

"The judge closed his mind to this element of the case; he’d already made the decision there had been no rape," said Polak.

His client maintains she was gang-raped before being charged herself after signing a retraction 10 days later.

Polak said that if the appeal is rejected, he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

His client is "a young girl, and the conviction makes it difficult for her, like applying for a job", the lawyer said. "It would help her recovery if she didn’t have this conviction hanging over her."

The court is expected to take months before coming to a decision.

"I get really stressed over nothing... Rationally, I know it’s obviously not that which is stressing me out, it’s the other bigger things, like now it's the appeal," the woman herself said in an interview with Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

"Everything is just a lot more stressful now and it has brought everything back up to the surface."