British teen pleads not guilty to false rape report against Israelis

The defendant, who claims her confession was coerced by Cypriot police, is slated to go on trial in October

Police officers escort a 19-year-old British woman, center, from the Famagusta court in town of Paralimni, Cyprus, July 29, 2019. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
Police officers escort a 19-year-old British woman, center, from the Famagusta court in town of Paralimni, Cyprus, July 29, 2019. (AP/Petros Karadjias)

A 19 year-old British woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Cyprus court to a public mischief charge for making what prosecutors say was a false claim that she was raped by 12 Israeli teens at a holiday resort on the east Mediterranean island nation.

A judge set the start of the trial for October 2 and granted the woman bail, finding it “proper and fair” to free her after she had spent nearly two months in police detention.

The woman surrendered her travel documents to police and must appear at a Nicosia police station three times weekly. She has also been placed on a stop list prohibiting her departure. She was ordered to post a bail of 5,000 euros ($5,550) in cash, while her father who was present in the courtroom was to guarantee a bond of 15,000 euros.

Her defense lawyers say investigators used “oppression” to make her retract the allegation that she was gang raped at an Ayia Napa hotel last month. Cypriot authorities strongly deny that the retraction was coerced, saying that she volunteered the statement in writing.

Israeli teens who were cleared of rape allegations in Cyprus reunite with family members at Ben Gurion Airport on July 28, 2019. (Flash90)

“The teenager’s case is that she has not lied about being raped and the oppression was used by the Cypriot police in order to get her to retract her rape allegations,’ said Michael Polak, director of the group Justice Abroad which is assisting in the woman’s legal defense. “The purported retraction is unreliable because of what happened in the police station.”

Polak said the defense team will present evidence at trial that the woman had not lied about being raped. He called the case a “test” of the Cypriot legal system’s adherence to Cypriot and European conventions and said defense lawyers would ask Cyprus Attorney General Costas Clerides to drop the case “after considering the facts.”

Her parents are seeking donations for their daughter’s legal defense by setting up a GoFundMe page which has already raised 23,556 pounds (around $28,900).

“We maintain that the statement was given under duress and in breach of her rights, resulting in the collapse of the initial investigation and charges of public mischief being made against her,” the parents said on the page.

Five Israelis were initially freed July 25 after no evidence was found linking them to the case. The remaining seven were released three days later after police said the woman retracted the rape allegations.

A 19-year old British woman, is seen in the rear seat of a police vehicle, with head covered, as she leaves the Famagusta court in Paralimni, Cyprus, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, after pleading not guilty to a public mischief charge. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Israeli media has reported that police in Israel are examining the possibility of launching a criminal investigation into the teenagers over a video of the sexual encounter that was shared online. A police official told Channel 12 news last week that a group of Israeli activists was urging authorities to prosecute the teenagers under local laws prohibiting revenge porn.

“The matter is being thoroughly examined by the legal department to see if police here have the authority to investigate an incident that happened abroad, and if so, how it would be carried out,” the official said.

According to the report, police were exploring their options after 20 Tel Aviv residents last week filed a complaint on behalf of the 19-year-old British tourist at their local police station. The complaint said the Israeli teenagers violated the country’s laws by sharing the video of them having sex with the British woman.

In 2014, Israel became the first country to ban the distribution of so-called revenge porn in a bid to protect victims. The law, which targets sexually explicit media posted without the depicted person’s knowledge or consent, also covers content shared on social media. It stipulates that those found guilty of posting such content will be prosecuted as sex offenders, and that the offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.

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