The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has urged Cyprus to “do the right thing” in the case of a British teenager convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Ayia Napa but cautioned against aggravating the situation before her sentencing this week.
Last week, a judge ruled the 19-year-old wilfully indulged in public mischief in claiming she was raped by a group of Israeli males while on holiday in July.
She has since alleged that Cypriot police forced her to sign a retraction and, as she awaited sentencing on Tuesday, the woman appealed to both Raab and Boris Johnson, the prime minister, to bring her home.
“Please support me with your actions, not just with your words,” she told Raab and Johnson in comments to the Sun.
In response, the foreign secretary said he had “very serious concerns” about the woman’s treatment and had discussed these with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides.
“We have registered our concerns in crystal clear terms,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“The Cypriots are very sensitive about political interference in that case, so we will encourage them to do the right thing in the right way.”
Asked what the UK could do if the teenager were jailed on Tuesday, Raab said: “I’m not going to get ahead of Tuesday, but it is very firmly on my radar and I want to see that vulnerable young woman safe and sound back home with her family, and to be able to start her recovery.”
UK travel advice for Cyprus makes no mention of the case. Asked whether the advice could be updated to warn Britons against visiting Cyprus, Raab said: “We always keep our travel advice under review.”
Speaking earlier to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he said the case needed to be handled “very sensitively”.
Raab added: “We need to be careful that we don’t do anything which aggravates the situation between now [and] the date of sentencing, which is on Tuesday. But the concerns that we have, and that I have, have been squarely and firmly and categorically registered with the Cypriot authorities.”
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, could face up to a year in prison and a €1,700 (£1,500) fine.
“We don’t control the Cypriot justice system. They’re very sensitive in Cyprus about perceived political interference, but there are clear questions around the due process, the fair trial safeguards that have applied in this case,” Raab told Sky.
He said the first priority was to see the teenager released. “So that’s what we’re doing and we obviously need to handle this case very sensitively to make sure we don’t do anything counter-productive,” Raab said.
One of the men accused of taking part in the gang-rape, Yona Golub, told the Mail on Sunday that the group were preparing to sue the teenager.
“We deserve compensation for what we went through. I don’t know how much I should get,” the 18-year-old told the newspaper. “They need to put her in prison and only afterwards should they deal with the compensation.”
He claims he was in a different hotel room but was arrested because he was on holiday with two friends who had been in the same room.
Golub was one of 12 Israeli males aged between 15 and 20 who were arrested over the incident but released after the woman signed a retraction statement.