Raab takes up false rape claim case with Cyprus
Minister questions trial after teenager is convicted of lying over holiday gang attack
DOMINIC RAAB has expressed “serious concern” about the potential for a miscarriage of justice after a court in Cyprus convicted a British teenager of lying about being gang-raped on holiday.
The Foreign Secretary will raise the case with the Cypriot authorities after the 19-year-old, who told police she was raped by up to 12 Israeli youths in her hotel room, was left facing up to a year in jail while her alleged attackers were allowed to return home.
Last night the woman vowed to clear her name and told The Sun she was not surprised by the judgment. The teenager also claimed she has been contacted by other people who have been “forced to remain silent” during similar experiences. Referring to her plans to appeal, she told the newspaper: “This fight is for them and many more.”
The woman withdrew her complaint two weeks after the alleged incident, but says she was “forced” to do so by police who left her “scared for my life” and who did not record the interview.
The case has raised questions about the island’s treatment of victims of sexual assault, with protesters claiming the Cypriot authorities “always find a reason not to believe women who claim they have been raped”.
A campaign has been launched online to encourage tourists to boycott Cyprus on the grounds that it is “not safe for women” to go on holiday there.
In a hardening of the Foreign Office’s stance on the case, sources said “all options are on the table” if there appears to be a miscarriage of justice. Mr Raab, a former lawyer, is understood to have followed the case closely and “takes issues of access to justice extremely seriously,” sources said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK is seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case and we will be raising the issue with the Cypriot authorities.”
As well as the allegation that she was pressured to retract her statement, the court heard claims that police failed to properly secure the alleged crime scene or maintain fully the integrity of medical and forensic evidence.
The alleged victim, from Derbyshire, sighed as a judge said, via a translator, that she had been convicted of “public mischief ” following a trial in Paralimni in the Famagusta district of Cyprus.
Around 25 protesters from the Network Against Violence Against Women sat in the court with gags over their mouths showing an image of stitchedup lips to support the defendant. As she left court they shouted: “We are with you. We know. We believe you.”
She will be sentenced on Jan 7, when she could be jailed for up to a year and ordered to pay a £1,500 fine.
The teenager – who was on a working holiday to Ayia Napa during her summer break between school and starting university – reported the alleged rape to police hours after she claimed it happened on July 17. Soon afterwards, the 12 Israelis, who denied the allegations, were arrested.
Two weeks later the woman was questioned for eight hours by Cypriot police without a lawyer or family member present. During that time, she signed a statement of retraction saying she had concocted the story. She later
told the court: “I didn’t think I would leave that police station without signing.”
Her mother said her lack of access to lawyers while being questioned “for hours on end” was “very bizarre”.
She was charged with causing public mischief, defined by the Cypriot criminal code as knowingly providing police with “a false statement concerning an imaginary offence”.
Her passport was confiscated and she has had to forego a place at university due to the trial proceedings.
The prosecution claimed she made the story up because she felt ashamed and humiliated after discovering she had been filmed having sex with one of the Israelis.
In his ruling, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said the defendant did not tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “convenient” and “evasive” statements.
The Israelis, aged 15 to 18, were allowed home to Tel Aviv, where they celebrated by shouting “the Brit is a whore” and popping champagne at Ben Gurion airport.
Michael Polak, a British lawyer on the teenager’s defence team, said: “We are very disappointed ... but we are not surprised given how the trial was conducted. It doesn’t finish here. The next stage will be to appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights.” The process could take up to four years, he said.
The British teenager convicted of lying about being gang-raped covers her face as she leaves Famagusta court in Paralimni, Cyprus. Along with around 25 supporters, she was wearing a mask with an image of stitched-up lips in protest at the judgment