With the United Kingdom furious that a 19-year-old British woman was convicted of lying about an alleged gang rape at a Cypriot resort, the verdict is drawing more criticism, with a prominent attorney on the island calling for a Presidential pardon.
While she’s still not being named, despite being convicted in open court, the case has become divisive politically and her family called for British tourists to boycott the island, a former colony of the UK.
Ahead of her sentencing set for Jan. 7, well-known lawyer Achilleas Demetriades said she should be given a pardon for the conviction of public mischief although a judge found she had fabricated the case against a dozen Israeli teen men.
The defendants had been swiftly arrested but then released a week later after the woman recanted and withdrew her claim, which she now said was a coerced confession as she renewed her claim they did rape her while the defense said she was upset the encounter had been filmed and wanted to get back at the men.
Demetriades, who spoke with Kathimerini Cyprus, said the country’s reputation was on the line and called for a “deep analysis” into the prosecution.
“In this case, matters of public interest are at stake, along with the reputation of Cyprus and the credibility of its justice system,” Demetriades said after critics on Cyprus and elsewhere backed the woman’s version of what happened, or didn’t.
Her defense said she didn’t get a fair trial and also said the confession was forced and that she never should have been tried, let alone convicted although she said she wasn’t surprised at the verdict, complaining the process was against her.
The teen’s defense attorneys said Judge Michalis Papathanasiou would frequently refuse to consider evidence which supported her claim of rape, while reminding everyone in his court, “This is not a rape trial, it is not about rape.”
They also argued that their client’s human rights were violated after a long interrogation where she signed a retraction statement without the presence of a legal defender but the judge said he wasn’t persuaded she was coerced.
Demetriades, who the sentencing might reveal more, said that, “withdrawing a statement without legal consultation raises serious questions over the treatment” the teen had received.
But another human rights lawyer, Jonathan Cooper who also has experience before English and international courts and tribunals, told British media he didn’t agree with a pardon because he said the woman had a solid case on appeal.
“The problem with a pardon is you’ve got to accept that you did something to be pardoned for,” Cooper told reporters.
The woman is facing up to a year in prison and spent more than a month at Nicosia’s Central Prisons while she is now on bail but barred from leaving the country and as her defense team said they would request the Supreme Court immediately review the case now.