NICOSIA – A 19-year-old British woman who initially claimed she was gang raped by 12 Israeli men at a Cypriot holiday resort in July was found guilty of lying and convicted on a charge of “Public Mischief” in a case where she continues to be backed by supporters.
She said the alleged attack occurred in Ayia Napa, which became a media sensation that raised questions about the treatment of victims of sexual assault even though she retracted her accusation after hours of questioning by police.
Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said the defendant did not tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “convenient” and “evasive” statement, the British newspaper The Telegraph and other media reports said.
“She did not make a good impression on the court,” he said. “She was never clear on what happened. She was not stating the truth and I reject the version she gave.”
He delayed sentencing until January 7, when the woman could be ordered to pay a 1,700-euro ($1903.94) and serve up to a year in prison over the case that has brought a relentless hubbub.
The woman, who wasn’t named in the media, was dressed in back and sighed in disbelief as the court’s translator relayed Judge Papathanasiou’s decision, the paper said, and as about two dozen protesters from the Network Against Violence Against Women sat in court with gags over their mouths showing an image of stitched-up lips.
As the defendant walked out of court in a blindfold to hide her identity, they shouted: “We are with you. We know. We believe you.”
She claimed in court that she was raped but pressured into changing her account by Cypriot police. She spent more than a month in prison before she was granted bail at the end of August, but has not been allowed to leave the island.
Michael Polak, a Justice Abroad lawyer whose group is assisting the teenager, said the defence were ”very disappointed” with the ruling, the British newspaper The Independent also reported.
“We are not surprised by the result given the frequent refusal during the trial of the judge to consider evidence which supported the fact that the teenager had been raped.”
He said they found it “incredibly difficult to follow [the judge’s] logic” that it was not a rape case, despite the trial centring on whether she told the truth in her sexual assault claims and that an appeal will be lodged.
Prosecutors told the court the defendant fabricated the gang rape allegations because she was upset about being filmed while having sex.
In October, defense lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou told the court text messages exchanged between the Israeli youth showed them bragging in a “bad and aggressive way” about plans to have sex with the woman.
Michael Polak, Director of Justice Abroad which is assisting in the woman’s legal defense, said then investigators failed to provide defense lawyers with all text messages from 11 mobile phones seized during the Israelis’ detention that could shed further light on their intentions. Polak said the defense obtained material from only five of the 11 seized phones.
“We say a rape did occur and there’s been an investigation which falls way below any proper standards of investigation,” Polak told reporters. All 12 Israelis returned home shortly after their release and their defense lawyers said they would sue the woman for damages and compensation.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)