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Cyprus trial opens for UK tourist who recanted rape accusation against Israelis

Defense attorneys submit testimony saying the dozen tourists discussed, in a ‘very bad and aggressive way,’ having group sex with 19-year-old

A British teenager (L), accused of falsely claiming she was gang raped by Israeli tourists, covering her face as she arrives for her trial at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus, October 2, 2019. (Iakovos HATZISTAVROU/AFP)
A British teenager (L), accused of falsely claiming she was gang raped by Israeli tourists, covering her face as she arrives for her trial at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus, October 2, 2019. (Iakovos HATZISTAVROU/AFP)

The trial of a 19 year-old British woman facing criminal charges in Cyprus for allegedly falsely accusing 12 Israeli teenagers of raping her in July opened on Wednesday.

The woman has pleaded not guilty to a public mischief charge for making what prosecutors say was a false claim that she was raped by the Israeli teenagers at the Ayia Napa holiday resort on the east Mediterranean island.

If convicted she could face up to one year in prison and a fine of around 1,700 euros ($1,850).

Cypriot police had immediately arrested the group of Israelis, holding them for nearly two weeks until the woman recanted her claim during questioning, saying there had been consensual sexual contact with some of the suspects.

The woman reportedly told investigators she filed the rape report because she felt “angry and insulted” when some of the Israelis recorded video of her having consensual sex with a number of them.

Her defense team, which claims she was pressured into changing her testimony, presented the Famagusta district court Wednesday with text messages sent between the Israelis which it says show the alleged rape was planned in advance.

In one message, one of the Israelis wrote: “She’s going to get fucked tonight” by “them all” and that they would have an “orgy” with her.

One of the suspects also later told police during questioning that the group had discussed having sex with the woman in a “bad and aggressive” manner, British media reported Wednesday.

“They said they were going to stay in our flat because the English girl was coming there later and they were going to fuck her – all of them,” defense lawyers quoted from the suspect’s statement, according to a report from the Daily Mail newspaper.

“They were talking about it and laughing, saying they were going to do orgies with her,” the statement continued. “They were saying this in a very bad and aggressive way and they looked like they were ready — all of them — to fuck her that night.”

Michael Polak (R) from the UK legal aid group Justice Abroad arrives at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus on October 2, 2019. Iakovos HATZISTAVROU/AFP)

The woman, who cannot be named in media reports, was in court with her parents and British barrister Lewis Power QC as well as lawyer Michael Polak, from Justice Abroad, a UK legal aid group.

Her defense lawyers said their client was suffering from PTSD due to her handling by Cypriot authorities and her detention for a month in a Nicosia prison before she was released on bail in late August.

The trial was adjourned until October 15 to give the defense more time to study new evidence. Her lawyers also asked that she be set free, but the request was turned down. Judges did however soften the terms of her bail, requiring her to report only once a week to a police station in Nicosia, rather than the previous three times a week.

Her lawyers told reporters they intend to argue that their client was forced to retract her claim and that the rape allegation was not properly investigated. They have noted that there is no recording of her eight-hour interrogation that led to her signing the confession and that no lawyer was present at the time.

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

All 12 of the Israelis were initially arrested on July 17, though five were 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. They all returned to Israel and were greeted amid scenes of celebration that some commentators deemed inappropriate under the circumstances.

AFP contributed to this report.

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