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Cyprus: British woman ’emotional’ after winning ‘landmark’ appeal to overturn conviction for lying about gang rape

A British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has won her appeal to overturn the conviction at the country’s Supreme Court, her lawyers said.

The then 19-year-old, from Derby, was given a suspended four-month jail term in 2020 after a judge found her guilty of public mischief following a trial.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police she was attacked by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room, during a party in Ayia Napa on 17 July 2019, but was charged after signing a retraction statement 10 days later.

The now 21-year-old university student has maintained she was pressured by officers in Cyprus to withdraw the allegation and has vowed to clear her name having flown back to the UK after being sentenced.

‘It’s a big moment’

Her family said in a statement: “It is a great relief we hear that the authorities in Cyprus have recognised the flaws in their legal process.

“Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated by the police or the judge or those in authority, it does bring with it the hope that my daughter’s suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated.

“Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus and do with it what should have happened at the outset.”

Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, who coordinated the appeal, told Sky News the woman and her family are “really happy” about the “landmark decision”, adding that it is a “very emotional time” for them.

“For the family it’s a big moment, and they put themselves through a lot to establish her innocence,” he said.

He said they will immediately request a “proper investigation” of the rape allegations by a different police force in Cyprus and they hope authorities will “do the right thing”.

Woman’s rights ‘haven’t been protected’

During the appeal hearing last year, the woman’s lawyers said her retraction statement should never have been admitted into evidence because it was made by a vulnerable teenager who had spent almost seven hours in a police station without legal representation.

Mr Polak said there were no police recordings in the station either.

“There were lots of defence rights in this case which haven’t been protected,” he said.

Mr Polak said the trial judge, Michalis Papathanasiou, “was against us even before any evidence was called”.

He said he did not allow any evidence related to the rape allegations and had shouted seven times: “This is not a rape trial”.

He said Mr Papathanasiou had already decided no rape had taken place and had failed to understand the offence of public mischief, which requires a false statement of a make-believe crime.

Police investigation of rape claims was a ‘failure’

The judge was also accused of ignoring defence expert evidence and not taking account issues with the police investigation, which Mr Polak said was a “failure”.

He alleged there was evidence the crime scene was left unprotected, TV teams were able to get into it and found relevant evidence the day after the report, and suspects were placed all in one cell together so they could “put their stories together”.

The 12 Israeli men and boys arrested over the incident, aged between 15 and 20 at the time, denied any wrongdoing and were freed.

Mr Polak said the implications of this victory for women who come forward about rape are substantial.

“This is not just a massive decision for her, but it will have repercussions around the world.

“Countries need to look at how they’re dealing with young people and young women who make these complaints.”



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