In a case that has unsettled relations between the countries, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continued to support a 19-year-old UK woman who was convicted of lying about a gang rape by 12 Israelis at a Cyprus resort.
The woman, who hasn’t been identified despite the conviction, had recanted her story but then said it was coerced by aggressive police interrogation and said the rape happened but was found guilty of having fabricated it.
Raab, without explaining what he wanted, said the Cypriot government should “do the right thing” although the courts are independent. He said Cyprus was “sensitive” about outside meddling but said the woman’s sentencing set for Jan. 7 was “firmly on my radar,” The Cyprus Mail reported.
He also told the BBC he had spoken to the woman’s mother and offered support and as the teen has drawn the backing of women’s groups and others around the world after being convicted of Public Mischief.
The UK had previously said it was “seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees” for her and as her defense team said it would appeal, which the British newspaper The Guardian said could take years to be heard and settled.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr program, Raab said he had conveyed his “very serious concerns” about her treatment by the Cyprus authorities to his Cypriot counterpart, complaining the teenager had gone through a “terrible ordeal” and that he had spoken to her mother “to see what further support we could provide”.
The minister said it was his priority to get the woman back to the UK to start her recovery but she could be sentenced to jail in a case that has drawn a fierce backlash in her home country and other areas with her parents calling for tourists to boycott Cyprus.
Asked whether the Foreign Office would advise tourists against visiting Cyprus- a former UK colony- Raab said it always keeps its travel advice “under review” and wouldn’t say what he would recommend.
Speaking earlier on Sky, he said the teenager’s case must be handled “sensitively to make sure we don’t do anything counter-productive,” speaking in carefully-measured diplomatic language that didn’t take a strong stand either way.
Asked what he would do if he felt there has been a miscarriage of justice, Raab added: “We don’t control the Cypriot justice system… but there are clear questions around the due process, the fair trial, safeguards that have applied in this case.”
Cyprus’ government spokesman Kyriacos Koushios said there would be no interference with the courts no matter how hard the UK presses.
“It (involvement) would mean that we do not recognize and respect the judgment of the authorities. It would mean we have a government that intervenes and potentially guides our courts. This does not happen,” he said.
Koushios said the UK’s government had not communicated with the Cypriot administration.