Israeli police said mulling probe into teens cleared of gang rape in Cyprus

Israeli police said mulling probe into teens cleared of gang rape in Cyprus

Authorities under pressure to prosecute under local revenge porn laws after video of sex with British tourist shared online

A man walks out from Famagusta district court house in southeast town of Paralimni, Cyprus on Aug. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A man walks out from Famagusta district court house in southeast town of Paralimni, Cyprus on Aug. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Police in Israel are reportedly examining the possibility of launching a criminal investigation into the Israeli teenagers who were accused of raping a British tourist in Cyprus last month — and later cleared after she retracted her testimony — over a video of the sexual encounter that was shared online.

A police official told Channel 12 news on Monday that a group of Israeli activists was urging authorities to prosecute the teenagers under local revenge porn laws.

“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,” he said.

The official said the probe, if approved, could potentially be carried out by the Lahav 433 unit’s cyber crime division.

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 on revenge porn by sending the video of them having sex with the British woman.

A police officer escorts a 19-year-old British woman, center, to Famagusta court in town of Paralimni, Cyprus, July 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

“It’s not okay that Israeli citizens should take part in hurting a woman while abroad, breaking the law, and not be questioned or held accountable for it,” the complaint said.

“Distributing an intimate video of someone without their permission is a crime that carries a five-year sentence,” it said. “They trampled her rights, and the Israeli police has the responsibility to investigate this matter and bring those responsible to justice.”

The official told Channel 12 that even if the investigation goes ahead, it would be extremely difficult to track down who circulated the video and would require the cooperation of Cypriot police.

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.

Filming a sex act without permission is not illegal in Cyprus.

The 19-year-old tourist from northern Britain is facing a year in prison and a $1,890 fine for accusing 12 Israeli tourists aged 15 to 18 of gang raping her at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa last month after a night of partying.

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

Cypriot police immediately arrested a group of Israelis staying at the hotel, 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.

Israeli media outlets said the sex video was being circulated on WhatsApp and had been posted on pornography websites.

According to some reports, the woman recanted after she was confronted with a video of the encounter, seized by police, that appeared to show the sex was of a consensual nature.

Meanwhile, the court proceedings against the British woman have been adjourned until August 27 in order to give her new legal team time to prepare their defense.

The headquarters of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. (Flash90)

The British woman’s former lawyer resigned because of a “serious disagreement” with his client. His resignation followed UK media reports that the woman claimed she was forced by Cypriot investigators to retract her original rape report. Cypriot have police denied the allegation.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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