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Top Cyprus court acquits UK woman of making false rape claim against Israelis

Woman maintains she was raped by up to 12 Israelis in resort of Ayia Napa in July 2019; lawyer for woman hails ‘watershed moment’

A British teenager convicted of falsely accusing a group of Israelis of gang rape covers her face as she arrives with her mother to the Famagusta District Court, in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus on January 7, 2020. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)
A British teenager convicted of falsely accusing a group of Israelis of gang rape covers her face as she arrives with her mother to the Famagusta District Court, in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus on January 7, 2020. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)

The Cypriot Supreme Court on Monday overturned the conviction of a young British woman for lying about being gang raped by Israeli tourists.

The unnamed woman, who was 18 at the time of her arrest, alleged that she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists, aged 15 to 22, in a hotel room in the seaside holiday resort of Ayia Napa in July 2019.

Defense lawyers successfully argued there had been a miscarriage of justice when a district court in January 2020 found her guilty of public mischief and handed her a suspended four-month jail term.

The court in Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, handed down its decision after considering an appeal launched in September by the woman’s lawyers.

Michael Polak, who was among a team of lawyers representing the woman, called the decision a “watershed moment” for the woman and others “around the world who find themselves in similar positions.”

Polak said the Supreme Court agreed with the defense that the British woman didn’t receive a fair trial and that important fair trial provisions were “totally disregarded in this case.”

Israeli protesters shout slogans outside a court before the arrival of a 19 year-old British woman who was found guilty of making up claims she was raped by up to 12 Israelis, at Famagusta District Court on January 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

He said the “young, vulnerable woman was not only mistreated” when she reported the rape to police but was also put through a trial that was “manifestly unfair” as the Supreme Court found.

Defense lawyers had said the woman — whose identity hasn’t been formally released and was 19 at the time of her trial — was suffering from a stress disorder and had been pressured into making an “unreliable” retraction.

Moreover, the team said the “discourteous” lower court judge failed to provide the woman with a “fair hearing,” because he didn’t give defense lawyers the chance to put forward evidence supporting the woman’s claims.

Around 40 activists protested outside the court Monday with banners saying, “I believe her” and “end rape culture,” and clapped when they heard the court’s ruling.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the British government had said it had raised “numerous concerns” with Cypriot authorities about the judicial process in the case and the woman’s right to a fair trial.

The Israeli teenagers and young men denied any wrongdoing and were eventually released from custody and allowed to return home.

When they arrived back in Israel after their release without charge, they received a heroes’ welcome. The Israelis have not denied that they had sexual relations with the woman, but claim it was consensual. None was called as a witness in the case.

In an interview with The Sun two years ago, the woman stood by her claim that local police had forced her to sign a confession in which she admitted to making up being gang-raped.

She described developing a “normal holiday romance” with an Israeli nicknamed Sam in the holiday resort of Ayia Napa in July. The night before he was due to leave, the pair went up to a “grotty” hotel room at around 2:45 a.m.

They started kissing, she said, and then “about five minutes later, I heard the sound of the room door opening and turned around.”

Twelve men “were lining up, excited, talking and shouting in Hebrew. I was trying to fight them off but I just couldn’t. They were like a pack of animals — a pack of wolves,” she said.

“He [Sam] grabbed me and threw me on the bed. Some of them grabbed my ankles, some held down my knees and they ripped my bodysuit.”

“I was trying to cross my legs all the time and every time I did, Sam would get angry,” the woman said. “He grabbed one of my knees himself at one point. Then they took it in turns.”

“I don’t know how many of the 12 raped me,” she said. “You don’t count, you couldn’t count.”

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

The ordeal lasted for 20 minutes, she said.

Speaking from Derbyshire, where she lives, the woman talked about the impact her experiences in Cyprus have had on her mental health, saying she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I lost 2.5 stone (16 kilograms, 35 pounds) in prison. I was really thin when I came out,” she said.

“They put me on drugs, on Xanax, even though I didn’t want to,” she said, referencing a mild tranquilizer. “Most prisoners were drugged, it seemed they thought that was easier. It gave me horribly vivid dreams, hallucination.”

The woman told The Sun that she now sleeps for up to 20 hours and developed other PTSD symptoms, including when she hears a foreign language spoken by men.

“The most I can manage is going to the gym with friends and spending time with my [dog]. I can’t think further ahead than that yet,” she said, but added that she would like to go back to college.

Nir Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who defended the main suspect, known as “Sam,” and two others said, “The decision changes nothing. If I understand correctly, the meaning is not that they will reopen everything from the beginning now, and because of that, I am not worried about the future at all.”

He maintained that his clients engaged in consensual “group sex” and said he would give further comment after he reads the court decision.

The woman’s family welcomed the decision with “great relief” in a statement.

“Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated, it does bring with it the hope that my daughters’ suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated,” it said.

“Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus.”

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