UK woman’s Cyprus gang rape claim against Israelis heads to European Court – report

Attorney says petition aims to prove miscarriage of justice by Cypriot authorities, which he said failed to live up to their obligations under EU law

A British teenager, center, accused of falsely claiming she was raped by Israeli tourists, covers her face as she arrives for her trial at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus, on December 30, 2019. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)
A British teenager, center, accused of falsely claiming she was raped by Israeli tourists, covers her face as she arrives for her trial at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus, on December 30, 2019. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)

A British woman who claims a group of Israeli men raped her in Cyprus is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights after authorities ruled out a new investigation of her claim, according to a report Tuesday.

The unnamed woman 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, but several months later was convicted of lying about the incident. She was 18 at the time of her arrest.

Defense lawyers successfully overturned her conviction in the Cypriot Supreme Court in January of this year, arguing there had been a miscarriage of justice when a district court found her guilty of public mischief and handed her a suspended four-month jail term.

The woman and her family had hoped the overturned conviction would lead to authorities in Cyprus reopening the case, but the Cyprus attorney general ruled out a new investigation.

“The attorney general’s decision comes following the success of our client’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus where that court not only set out the many legal failures in the case against her, but also covered the procedural failures in the investigation of her rape complaint,” Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, who was among a team of lawyers representing the woman, told the Daily Mail in a report Monday.

Polak explained that in Cyprus, the attorney general’s decision to initiate or discontinue criminal proceedings cannot be appealed, which left the woman and her family no recourse to challenge the refusal to reinvestigate the case.

An Israeli protests in solidarity with the British teenager convicted in Cyprus of making false gang rape outside the Cyprus Embassy in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The attorney said that the submission to the European Court of Human Rights would argue the woman’s rights were violated because the original probe of the case was mishandled, resulting in a breach of Cyprus’s obligation to appropriately investigate and prosecute sexual crimes.

“It was clear that [this] case was replete with investigatory failures, and it is only fair that an investigation by an independent objective investigator should take place,” Polak said.

Related: The long arc: 3 years on, the Cyprus gang rape case begins to bend the other way

The case intends to argue that the woman’s rights under Article 3, 6, and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights were breached, according to the report. Article 3 of the convention refers to prohibition of torture, Article 6 is the right to a fair trial and Article 8 refers to the right to respect for private and family life.

Polak 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 have said the woman was suffering from a stress disorder as a result of the rape, 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.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the British government 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.

In an interview with The Sun two years ago, the woman stood by her claim that Cyprus police had forced her to sign a confession in lengthy questioning without a lawyer or translator present.

Israeli tourists who were released from Cyprus detention following a gang rape allegation by a British teenager arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 28, 2019. (Flash90)

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 were called as a witness in the case.

Nir Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who defended the main suspect, known as “Sam,” and two others, said of the overturned conviction earlier this year, “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.”

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