By Michele Kambas
PARALIMNI, Cyprus (Reuters) – A British teenager will appeal against her conviction in Cyprus over a withdrawn allegation of gang rape, her lawyers said on Tuesday, as the British government said it had raised numerous concerns about her treatment with Cypriot authorities.
The 19-year-old was given a suspended sentence on Tuesday after being found guilty by a court in Cyprus on Dec. 30 of public mischief for having alleged that she had been raped by a group of Israeli youths in the holiday resort of Ayia Napa last July.
She says she was coerced by police into dropping the complaint. The case has caused outrage in Britain and sparked protests from activists who say the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, did not get a fair trial.
Lawyers said she would appeal to clear her name.
“The fight for her innocence will go on regardless,” said Lewis Power, who was assisting the woman’s local defense team. “We will maintain this young girl was stripped of her dignity and basic human rights.”
She had earlier been sentenced before a packed courtroom to four months in jail, suspended for three years.
Raising his voice over chants from supporters of the woman outside, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told her the sentence took into account her age, clean criminal record and remorse, and that he was giving her a “second chance”.
“All mitigating factors were taken into account but it does not negate the seriousness of the offence,” Papathanasiou said, noting that 12 individuals had been briefly detained on the basis of her accusation.
The woman, whose lawyers say she is suffering from post-traumatic stress, stood in silence before him.
Police ordered window blinds in the courtroom to be pulled down to block the sight of about 150 protesters who shouted slogans like “Blaming the victim is the second rape!” and “Cyprus justice, shame on you!”.
“We are here to raise social awareness of rape,” said Dana Salmon, one of almost 60 activists from Israel who had flown in to support the woman. “There is no justice here.”
The woman insists that a sexual assault took place and that she was pressured to withdraw her complaint during overnight questioning from police with no lawyer present. One defense witness, a former state forensic pathologist, said her injuries were consistent with rape.
Twelve Israeli youths were detained for questioning but swiftly released after the woman withdrew her accusation. They were not required to give any evidence at the woman’s trial.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pleased the woman could return home after being barred from leaving the island, a spokesman said, adding that Britain would work with Cyprus and other countries to ensure such a case could not happen again.
“We have had numerous concerns about the judicial process in this case and the woman’s right to a fair trial and we have made these clear to the Cypriot authorities,” the spokesman said.
Foreign minister Dominic Raab earlier said there was no immediate plan to change the travel advice for Britons visiting Cyprus. The case has prompted calls for a boycott of the island, which is popular with British holidaymakers.
Cypriot newspapers have reported that President Nicos Anastasiades might pardon the woman, although a senior government source told Reuters that was premature.
Lawyers for the woman say they would press ahead with an appeal anyway because a pardon would not expunge her criminal record.
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan in London; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kevin Liffey)