PARALIMNI, CYPRUS (AFP) - A Cypriot court on Tuesday (Jan 7) handed a British teenager a four-month sentence suspended for three years after convicting her of falsely accusing a group of Israeli tourists of gang rape.
The 19-year-old smiled and hugged her family after the sentence was handed down by judge Michalis Papathanasiou, after a months-long trial that her lawyers say was littered with investigatory and legal mistakes and issues, including repeated refusals by the judge to consider whether the girl was raped.
The case has sparked protests in Britain and calls for tourists to boycott the island. The sentencing took place to loud shouts from protesters outside the court room, including around 50 Israelis – mainly women – who travelled to Cyprus to offer moral support to the girl.
As the judge delivered his sentencing, shouts of “Cyprus justice, shame on you” were audible in the court, despite police ordering journalists to close windows and blinds.
Lawyers for the teen says she was raped in the seaside resort of Ayia Napa by 12 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, the girl was interviewed again by police and signed a retraction.
The Israelis were allowed to return home and not called as witnesses.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has “firmly and categorically registered” concerns with Cypriot officials about the case.
Judge Michalis Papathanasiou had told the young woman that “statements you have given were false”, as he convicted her on Dec 30. He said during the trial that her account was beset by “contradictions, confusion, lack of logic and exaggeration”.
Mr Lewis Power, a British lawyer who is part of the teen’s legal team, said she would leave Cyprus by the end of the day.
An appeal to the Supreme Court “will begin in the next few days”, but it is not clear when any case will be heard, because the “wheels of justice move very slowly in Cyprus,” he said.
The case has highlighted “a gaping chasm in the treatment” of victims of sexual assault in Cyprus relative to other jurisdictions, Mr Power added.