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LAWYERS and women’s rights groups have criticised the “extremely problematic” verdict that a young British woman lied about being gang raped in Cyprus today.
The 19-year-old said she was attacked by 12 Israeli tourists in an Ayia Napa hotel on July 27 before making a retraction statement 10 days later for allegedly being “embarrassed” about being filmed having sex.
She maintains that she was pressured into changing her account by local police after being “scared for her life” while her lawyers were not present.
But Cypriot police insisted she willingly signed the retraction statement.
The unnamed teenager was convicted of a single count of public mischief at the Famagusta District Court while dozens of protesters waited outside in solidarity.
Her lawyers criticised the legal process, arguing the trial did not properly examine the original allegation that she had been raped.
Lawyer Michael Polak, from the Justice Abroad group assisting her, said the judge “shut down” questioning from their advocates and the production of evidence “on a handful of occasions.”
Video found on some of the men’s mobile phones showed her having consensual sex with one of the group while others try to enter the room as she tells them to leave, according to her lawyers.
Human rights lawyer Alexandra Patsalides at Equality Now said her treatment by the Cypriot police, the criminal justice system and local media was “extremely problematic.”
She said: “It is the duty of the investigators and the prosecution to thoroughly examine the circumstances of each case in an impartial manner and not base their decisions on negative gender-based stereotypes, or, as appears in this instance, pejorative attitudes about young people who visit Ayia Napa.”
Ms Patsalides said there are numerous reasons why a victim may retract an allegation of sexual assault, and in those instances, police authorities should “assess all the reasons why.”
All men initially arrested returned home after they were released and did not give evidence, while the woman spent more than a month in prison before she was granted bail in August and has not been allowed to leave the island.
She could face up to a year in jail and a €1,700 (£1,500) fine.
Charity Filia and Women’s Equality Party UK both called the verdict “appalling” on Twitter, while barrister Matthew Scott wrote that the conviction looks “very worrying.”
Other Twitter users also posted their support for the woman using the hashtag “I Believe Her.”
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