What You Need To Know About The Controversial Cyprus Gang Rape Case

Photo by MATTHIEU CLAVEL/Contributor/GettyImages.
This story was updated on Tuesday January 7th at 8am:
The British woman found guilty of fabricating a claim that she was raped by a gang of Israeli youths in Cyprus has received a four-month prison sentence - suspended for three years. The 19-year-old from Derbyshire can now return home to England. Sky News reported that in a hearing this morning, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told her he was giving her a "second chance". Other reasons for the suspended sentence included her age, personal circumstances and psychological condition, the judge said.
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Her lawyer, Michael Polak, told Sky News she will continue with an appeal and is prepared to go to the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights - even if that process took years.
Read the details of the controversial case below...
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A 19-year-old British woman is facing up to a year in prison after she was found guilty of lying about being gang-raped by 12 Israeli men in Cyprus. The men were arrested on 18th July 2019 then released on 28th July after the woman who made the allegations signed a retraction. She was then charged with giving a false statement to the police. During her trial she told the court that police had forced her to change her story after she was subjected to hours of unrecorded questioning by police without a lawyer present. Cypriot police deny the allegations.
The teenager said that despite expecting the verdict from the start, she was "dedicated to seeking true justice". She told The Sun: "One moment I was a victim, the next, I was the accused. Eight hours of interrogation, denied access to a lawyer – while those accused of raping me had legal representation immediately."
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Concerns have been raised over the fairness of the trial, which means the British teenager now faces up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of £1,500. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has expressed concern, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging Cyprus to "do the right thing".
The teenager was convicted last week of public mischief at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni, Cyprus, and is due to be sentenced today (7th January).
Here is everything we know about the case so far.
The accusation
The 19-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was holidaying in Ayia Napa, a popular resort on the southeastern coast of Cyprus. She was staying at the Pambos Napa Rocks hotel on a working holiday visa. The woman, who is from Derbyshire, told the court she had begun a holiday romance with a 21-year-old Israeli called Sam, who was staying at the same hotel with friends. 
The court heard that she had sex with Sam on two nights prior to the attack, when his friends were in the room and filmed them on their phones. On the third night, she claimed the same group of men – all aged between 15 and 22 – burst into the room, held her down and raped her.
She managed to escape and ran to the medical centre at the hotel and was treated by a doctor who called the police. Medical examiners found bruises and scratches on her body. The next day, police swooped in and arrested all 12 Israelis on suspicion of rape. 
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The retraction
On 27th July 2019, the police recalled her for questioning, saying that investigators had found discrepancies in her statement. The woman was subjected to eight hours of unrecorded questioning by detectives without a lawyer present, and signed a statement retracting her claim. Police then charged her with "giving a false statement over an imaginary offence".
The young woman was charged with public mischief and spent over a month in prison awaiting trial. In August, she was released on bail and had her passport confiscated to prevent her from leaving the country. She had to report to a police station on the island three times a week. 
Michael Polak, the teenager’s lawyer, said that she may have retracted her claims because she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Prosecutors say the teenager willingly wrote and signed the document. 
During the six-month ordeal, the woman told the court that the police would not allow her to call her mother, who was also in Cyprus, and that officers forced her to change her statement. She told the court: "They asked me to say that it wasn’t rape." Police have denied this accusation. 
The trial
The woman pleaded not guilty to making false allegations on 27th August. Her trial officially began on 2nd October and she was told she’d have to remain in Cyprus over Christmas to receive the final judgment. None of the 12 accused men was called to give evidence at trial.
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District Judge Michalis Papathanasiou branded the woman’s testimony "childish lies". He also dismissed all the defence witnesses, including a respected Cypriot forensic expert who said her injuries were consistent with rape, as unreliable. According to the woman’s lawyer, Mr Polak, Judge Papathanasiou stated: "This is not a rape case, I will not consider whether she was raped or not."
In his damning verdict on 30th December, Judge Papathanasiou said the only time the teenager was telling the truth was when she admitted to being "humiliated" after she discovered she had been filmed by a group of Israeli men. "She did not make a [good] impression on the court," he said. "She did not tell the truth and tried to mislead the court." Papathanasiou also dismissed the 35 bruises the woman said she suffered during the ordeal as "jellyfish stings". The court found the teenager guilty of "public mischief", a charge which carries a fine of £1,500 and up to a year in prison.
More than 20 protesters from the group Network Against Violence Against Women crammed into the Paralimni courthouse to hear the verdict and stood outside wearing white scarves across their mouths and carrying signs with "The Rapist Is You" emblazoned on the front in solidarity with the teenager.
Nir Yaslovitzh, the lawyer representing the 12 Israeli men, welcomed the judge’s verdict and said he would seek appropriate punishment for "the girl, who refuses to this day to take responsibility for the horrible act she has done against the boys."
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The criticism
The case and verdict has sparked outrage across Cyprus, the UK and around the world. It has prompted many human rights advocates to speak out about the mistreatment of the young woman and the fairness of the trial. Susana Pavlou, a director of a Cyprus-based NGO focusing on women’s rights and gender equality, who attended the hearing, said that Papathanasiou’s judgment was yet another example of victim-blaming attitudes. "The way he made his judgment sounded entirely subjective," she told TIME magazine. "No explanation was given about how he weighed the evidence and why he rejected the testimony of the young woman. We felt intensely that we were hearing more of the same."
Many have questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, including novelist and human rights activist Joan Smith, who noted in the Guardian: "The Cypriot investigation was over in just 12 days. How can a thorough investigation into an alleged rape with multiple perpetrators be carried out in such a short space of time?"
A group of Israeli women has also spoken out in support of the teenager. Around 60 Israelis will demonstrate outside the courthouse in solidarity. "This case has become a huge issue in Israel. Instead of trying to help the victim, she is being judged and punished. For us, that is intolerable. As Israelis we want to say that is not acceptable," Professor Ruhama Weiss told The Telegraph.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also said he has "very serious concerns" about the teenager’s treatment, but he also said the government did not want to "aggravate" the situation or antagonise the Cypriots ahead of today’s sentencing.
The woman’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place on 7th January. Her lawyer said they plan to appeal the judge’s decision, but this could take up to two years to complete. 
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