Cyprus Supreme Court overturns controversial conviction of British national on alleged false rape claims News
Cyprus Supreme Court overturns controversial conviction of British national on alleged false rape claims

The Supreme Court of Cyprus overturned Monday the conviction of a British woman found guilty of allegedly faking a claim that she was gang-raped in the island-nation.

The then 19-year-old British woman was found guilty in January 2020 of public mischief on grounds that she made a false claim of being gang-raped by 12 Israeli men in Ayia Napa in 2019.  She was subsequently given a suspended sentence of four months in prison and a €140 fine.

The conviction was widely condemned by rights activists worldwide and received severe international scrutiny, with reports later coming out that the teenager was pressured into signing a retraction statement after eight hours of police interrogation without access to a lawyer or translator. A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK also issued a statement post the conviction expressing serious concerns “about the fair trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case” and noted that it will be raising the issue with the Cypriot authorities.

One month following the woman’s conviction, The Times of Israel published reports about the accused men receiving a “heroes welcome” as they returned to Israel loudly celebrating their release popping open champagne bottles and chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel lives) and “the Brit is a whore.”

Even though the woman was free to leave post the conviction due to the suspended sentence, her lawyer Michael Polak of “Justice Abroad” highlighted that she wanted to clear her name by overturning the conviction. According to Polak, in overturning the conviction, the Supreme Court recognized his client was “was not only mistreated when she reported the rape to the police, but then she was just put through a trial process that was manifestly unfair.”

Another member of Polak’s legal team, Nicoletta Charalambidou, added: “This is a very important day for women’s rights and in particular for victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence in Cyprus…The acquittal by the Supreme Court…points to the failure of the authorities to effectively investigate the rape claims she reported.”

The woman’s parents said that they were relieved that the authorities in Cyprus had “recognised the flaws in their legal process” and noted that they want the original rape case to be reopened and investigated:

Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated by the police or the judge or those in authority, it does bring with it the hope that my daughter’s suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated…Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus and do with it what should have happened at the outset.