A 19-year-old British woman who allegedly falsely accused a dozen Israeli teenagers of raping her at a beach resort in Cyprus took the stand Tuesday for the first time in her criminal trial, accusing Cypriot police of forcing her to retract her testimony.
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 in July at the Ayia Napa holiday resort on the east Mediterranean island.
According to the Cyprus Mail, the British woman told the Famagusta district court that police coerced her into retracting the rape claim.
“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.
She recalled being questioned by Marios Christou, a police investigator, who she said told her video footage showed her having consensual sex with some of the Israelis.
“I was crying, I didn’t understand what was going on. They kept asking me to say there wasn’t a rape,” she said.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, accused police of denying her access to a lawyer during her interrogation.
“They told me I did not have the right to a lawyer,” she said, according to the Daily Mail. “I realized at this point that the police were completely against me.”
She also said she messaged her mother during questioning while holding her phone under the table, imploring her to contact the British High Commission in Cyprus.
According to the Daily Mail, Christou said the accused “cried rape” because she was embarrassed over being filmed having sex.
Also at Tuesday’s hearings, the court turned down the prosecutors’ request to play the video, with the woman’s lawyer saying it would be dangerous for the mental health of his client.
If convicted, she could face up to one year in prison and a fine of around 1,700 euros ($1,850).
After receiving the original rape complaint in July, 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.
Her defense team, which claims she was pressured into changing her testimony, earlier this month presented the court with text messages sent between the Israelis which it says show the alleged rape was planned in advance.
They have said the rape allegation was not properly investigated, and have complained that there is no recording of her eight-hour interrogation that led to her signing the confession without first speaking to a lawyer.
AFP contributed to this report.