Lawyers for an unnamed 19-year-old British man who received a four-month suspended jail sentence after being convicted of lying that she was raped by 12 Israeli teens on Cyprus have filed an appeal, although she had already left the country.
That came as activists said it was a crucial event for women’s rights and continued to back her claim she was coerced by police during an intense interrogation to recant her charge before she later said she had been raped and that it wasn’t consensual.
An online crowdfunder campaign raised more than 150,000 British Pounds ($195,232) on her behalf as there was even speculation that Cyprus wanted to get her to keep relations with Israel, raising a dark geo-political spectrum to the case.
“This is a very critical moment for Cyprus regarding the rights of women in our courts,” Argentoula Ioannou, an activist lawyer so upset the way the case was handled set up the Network Against Violence Against Women on the island, told The Guardian.
“For the first time the highest court in the land will have to decide whether a woman was given a fair trial, whether her rights were violated and whether our Republic met its obligations as an EU member state,” she said.
Her lawyers said if the appeal fails on Cyprus that they would take it to the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights as the case keeps simmering, bringing more attention to the island.
“When the trial proceedings are considered dispassionately, it is clear that the teenager did not receive a fair trial,” Michael Polak of the legal aid group Justice Abroad which is coordinating the appeal told the British newspaper.
“The treatment of her representatives and witness was in complete contrast to the treatment the prosecution and its witness experienced,” he said, adding that the conviction was also a breach of Cyprus’ “international obligations under the European convention on human rights and as a member of the European Union,.:
Despite being convicted - and technically not the victim of a sex crime - she still hasn’t been name although the suspects were, with one of them mocking her and saying she “learned a lesson” from the sensational case.
She said she was gang-raped by the teens last July while on a working holiday in the party resort and she was detained almost five week in a Nicosia prison, forced to relinquish her passport and remain on Cyprus until the trial and verdict.
Even an expedited appeals process could take as long as six months and the case is being monitored by women’s groups in Israel who have defended her.
Leia Lazar, who was among the activists who flew into Cyprus in support of the teenager, told the Guardian: “We believe this woman because no one would go to the police in a foreign country and report gang-rape if it wasn’t true. Violence against women in Israel is a big problem. Official data shows that one in five women are raped and very often they are filmed having consensual or non-consensual sex and then find that those encounters end up on the web.”
Cypriot officials though said she complained only after some of the alleged attackers had secretly videotaped the gang assault after what had originally been an act of consensual sex with one of the group.
“Several of the boys had very strong political connections which is why no one wants to talk about this in my country and the Israeli media have covered it so unfairly,” Lazar also said.