Local police in Cyprus may argue that a group of Israeli teens accused of gang-raping a British tourist conspired ahead of time to commit the alleged rape, according to a lawyer for some of the suspects.
Nir Yaslovitzh, an Israeli attorney who, alongside Cypriot defense attorneys, represents three of the suspects, said that a conspiracy charge could result in charges against some of the Israelis, even if they did not engage in sex with the woman, if they witnessed the events or were present in the room at the time.
Twelve Israelis were arrested in the resort town of Ayia Napa last week on suspicion that they took part in the gang rape of the British tourist, 19. Some have reportedly admitted to having consensual sex with the woman, while others are thought to have possibly just been present in the room at the time.
“This is an insane accusation that puts the youths whose DNA is not found on the woman in danger as well,” Yaslovitzh told Israel’s Channel 12 news. He added that the defense teams would have to rethink their strategy if conspiracy charges are brought to bear against the suspects.
The British woman filed a police complaint on Wednesday against the Israelis, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who were staying at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel, on the island nation’s southeastern coast.
The woman had apparently — according to Cypriot media reports — had a previous relationship with at least one of the suspects. But on the night in question, she reportedly said others helped hold her down forcibly in a hotel room at the resort and more than one person may have raped her before she escaped.
Some of the suspects reportedly filmed some of the events on their phones, which police have confiscated.
Ioannis Habaris, an attorney who represents four of the Israelis, told The Associated Press that prosecutors have said the woman was raped but that it was unclear how many of the suspects were implicated.
There was no confirmation from police that they suspect a conspiracy.
Yaslovitzh insisted that videos provided by the youths to police purportedly showing the woman consenting to the sex “will also undermine the new suspicions.”
Some of the Israeli suspects have also demanded a “confrontation” with the woman, a common practice in Israeli police investigations, in which a suspect and an accuser challenge each other directly. Cypriot police do not use the technique, and the Israelis’ requests were denied.
According to Cypriot media, the top police investigator in the case said that the versions of events offered by the central suspects are extremely similar to each other, and that he suspects that they coordinated their statements before their arrest.
All the suspects, for example, reportedly urged investigators to check lobby security footage showing the woman hugging and kissing one of them in public.
According to Israeli reports, the investigation has focused on three of the Israelis, one of them the youth who had initially invited the British woman to the hotel room. The three suspects have been interrogated repeatedly in recent days, and have insisted the sex was consensual and offered cellphone video footage they said proved it, though it is unclear if the footage was from the night under investigation.
Three other suspects have exercised their right to remain silent and stopped cooperating with Cypriot police, while three more have insisted that they were not present in the room, but were at a nearby bar between midnight and 3 a.m. early Wednesday, when the alleged rape took place, according to unconfirmed Israeli reports.
Police said on Sunday that the woman would be asked to identify the suspects in a police lineup ahead of a court hearing next week. The outcome of the identification process will be added to DNA samples taken from the scene, including from a few used condoms discarded in the hotel room, as well as footage of the alleged assault contained in suspects’ cellphones. The evidence will determine who will be charged in the case during next week’s hearing, according to Israeli reports citing Cypriot media.
Yaniv Havari, an attorney who represents three of the suspects, told the Ynet news site on Monday that they were still waiting to see where the investigation was headed.
“The next step is that we wait for the results of the DNA tests and the [police] lineup, and then see where the investigator wants to take the case.”
On Monday, one of the Cypriot defense attorneys told Channel 12 that the investigation was going at an “amazing pace,” which he put down to the intense media scrutiny the case has drawn in Israel.
“Here we let investigations happen quietly, and don’t let the media manage the investigation,” he said.
According to media reports, one of the primary suspects and the victim had been chatting on Instagram for several days before the alleged attack. Channel 13 news on Thursday published screenshots of purported conversations showing the suspect flirting with the woman and asking her to come to his hotel room.
The TV news channel said the woman told Cypriot police that she went to one of the suspects’ rooms at around midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I knew some of the boys and we did have a relationship, but when I got to the room around midnight, everyone was drunk, I remember everything was blurred,” she said, according to Channel 13.
Channel 12 reported Saturday that the woman told the police two of the suspects held her down by the arms as she cried to be let go. She said that their friends then raped her, taking turns, and that several beat her.
“I do remember that until about 1:00 a.m., the friends I did not know raped me, some wore a condom, and some didn’t. They hurt my whole body… one of them held me down, and then I saw at least 12 faces … for an hour or so, one after the other,” she told police, according to the report.
“After they let me go I fainted, and then I ran out of the room, met friends and they took me half-naked to the clinic,” she said.
According to the Channel 12 report, nine of the 12 Israelis admitted to being in the room when the alleged rape occurred and three refused to answer police questions. Haaretz reported on Saturday that police found five used condoms and 13 condom wrappers in the room where the alleged rape occurred.
On Thursday, a district court in Paralimni remanded the Israeli tourists in police custody for eight days, pending the investigation into the alleged assault.
“This is a complex investigation, we are examining whether the sex was consensual,” a Cypriot police official told Ynet. He said the British tourist has remained in Cyprus to assist in the investigation.
Channel 12 also said Saturday that the woman remains in a “difficult mental state.”
Yaslovitzh noted that the 12 Israelis came to the popular resort of Ayia Napa in three separate groups and did not know each other. He said he suspected police investigators were trying to set a trap for some of the suspects by implicating all 12.
“I think it’s a trick,” Yaslovitzh told The Associated Press. “They want to know how my clients will [react].”
At Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors told the court the scratches and other injuries to the woman’s lower body were deliberately inflicted. Prosecutors also said there was hotel security camera footage of events from the evening and the police were still reviewing the material.
After the hearing, some of the suspects — with their faces covered to disguise their identity — alleged to reporters that they had been beaten by Cypriot police.