UK teen who accused Israelis of rape in Cyprus crowdfunding for legal defense
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UK teen who accused Israelis of rape in Cyprus crowdfunding for legal defense

Family sets up GoFundMe page to help cover costs after lawyer quits over ‘serious disagreement’; suspect insists her confession was coerced

Police officers escort a 19-year-old British woman, center, from the Famagusta court in town of Paralimni, Cyprus, July 29, 2019. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
Police officers escort a 19-year-old British woman, center, from the Famagusta court in town of Paralimni, Cyprus, July 29, 2019. (AP/Petros Karadjias)

The parents of the 19-year-old British woman who faces charges in Cyprus for allegedly falsely accusing 12 Israelis of rape are seeking donations for their daughter’s legal defense after her attorney resigned.

A GoFundMe page set up on Friday sought to raise $18,000 to cover the legal fees of the woman, who is facing up to a year in jail for making the claim.

“We maintain that the statement was given under duress and in breach of her rights, resulting in the collapse of the initial investigation and charges of public mischief being made against her,” the page said, referring to her retraction of the claim.

The fundraiser says the organization Justice Abroad has been providing legal assistance from the UK, and was assembling a legal team “to challenge the many breaches of her rights.”

The legal fund raised just over half of the target $18,000 as of Friday morning.

On Wednesday, the woman’s lawyer withdrew from her case due to a “serious disagreement” with his client.

Andreas Pittadjis, Cypriot, former lawyer for a British teenager who accused a group of Israelis of gang rape, speaks to the press at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in Cyprus on July 30, 2019. (Matthieu CLAVEL / AFP)

Andreas Pittadjis said his decision to resign was made after consulting with his client and her family, but wouldn’t disclose the nature of the dispute, or how the woman intended to plea.

“Please do not interpret my resignation as whether she had to plead guilty or not guilty or anything, as this will be prejudicial to her defense and unfair to her as well,” he told reporters.

The case was adjourned until August 19 to allow the British tourist to find a new lawyer. She will remain in police custody until her next court appearance.

Pittadjis’s resignation from the case comes after British media reports quoted the woman claiming she was forced by Cypriot investigators to retract the rape complaint.

Michael Polak, a British lawyer with Justice Abroad, said in a statement the suspect had been refused legal representation, despite requests and in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said the apparent confession was dictated to her and investigators made clear that if she signed it she could return to her hotel, but if she refused she would be arrested.

Israeli suspects cover their faces with their shirts as they arrive at the Famagusta courthouse in Paralamni, Cyprus, July 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Cypriot police spokesman Christos Andreou rejected the claims as “baseless.”

The 19-year-old tourist faces “public mischief” charges that come with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of around 1,700 euros for allegedly making the false claim.

She originally told police that 12 Israelis had raped on her on July 17 at a hotel in the resort of Ayia Napa. She said two of them held her down by the arms as she cried to be let go while their friends then raped and beat her.

Cypriot police immediately arrested the Israelis aged 15-18, holding some of 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.

She later changed her story, claiming that law enforcement officers pressured her into admitting she had fabricated her initial report by denying her access to an attorney and threatening to arrest her friends.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the Israelis have threatened to sue the woman for damages on behalf of their clients.

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