Cyprus defended its judiciary Tuesday, after Britain expressed concern over a trial that saw a British teenager convicted of falsely claiming she was gang-raped by a group of Israelis.
The Cyprus “government has full confidence in the judiciary and the courts… which should be strictly left to enforce the laws,” government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said in a statement.
His remarks came after the British Foreign Office said it was “seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees” of a British woman convicted of “public mischief” in a Cyprus court on Monday.
In Britain, anger over the verdict led some to share the hashtag #AvoidCyprus on social media calling for a boycott of the island nation, a popular tourist destination for British vacationers.
The 19-year-old said she was gang-raped by 12 Israeli tourists at a hotel in Ayia Napa in July. She later withdrew her complaint but said she had been pressured by Cyprus police.
The accused Israelis, aged 15 to 18, were released without charge after the woman was arrested on suspicion of “making a false statement about an imaginary crime.”
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, has accused police of denying her access to a lawyer during her interrogation.
“They said they would arrest me if I didn’t say I had lied. I was so scared, I didn’t think I would leave that station without signing that statement,” she was quoted saying in media reports.
The judge discredited her testimony at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in southeast Cyprus on Monday.
“Statements you have given were false,” he told the woman in remarks translated by an interpreter.
Defense lawyers for the woman cited “many violations” in the right to fair trial and vowed to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said the case was “deeply distressing” and that it would raise the case with Cypriot authorities.
British legal aid group Justice Abroad, which is supporting the woman, said the defense would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
The woman faces up to a year in prison and a fine of about 1,700 euros ($1,909). Sentencing was adjourned until January 7.
The Cyprus government would “not intervene in cases heard by the competent courts,” said Koushos, adding that authorities would not comment further on a pending case.
Some activists have charged that the Cypriot justice system had gone after the woman instead of her alleged Israeli assailants in order to protect Cyprus’s ties with Jerusalem.
“We are here to defend a 19-year-old girl who has been horribly punished because of political interests,” said British worker Andri Gioakatzi, who was one of several people to protest outside the courtroom Monday, according to The Guardian. “She has had to pay the price of Cyprus’s desire to have good relations with Israel. That is why she has been through this and they let all the Israeli boys go.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 28, 2019
Some in Israel expressed discomfort with the heroes’ welcome that the accused teens received upon their return home this summer. Many Israelis on social media pointed out that even though they were exonerated from the rape charges in Cyprus, they would have faced criminal charges for filming the sex if the incident had occurred in Israel.
In August, the woman’s lawyer described his client as a victim of revenge porn after the sex video was circulated on WhatsApp and ended up on pornography websites. Israel in 2014 became the first country to ban revenge porn in a bid to prevent the distribution of some pornographic content over the Internet.