Cyprus police deny mishandling British teenager's gang-rape case

By Helena Smith Athens

Cyprus police have denied they mishandled investigations into the rape claim of a British teenager, who said in her first TV interview that she was forced to withdraw her complaint.

The tourist, who recounted her ordeal in an ITV documentary broadcast on 14 April, maintained she was gang-raped by 12 Israelis in the resort of Ayia Napa last summer. She described how she had panic attacks before police coerced her into signing a confession that she had fabricated the assault.

“There was no other way out of that police station other than [to] sign that retraction statement,” the woman, who remains anonymous and was referred to as Emily in the programme, said.

Within hours of her revoking the accusation the alleged assailants were allowed to fly home. Overnight, the woman, 19, who was subsequently diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, was turned from victim to suspect. She spent more than four weeks in Nicosia general prison, and on her release had to remain on the island for court proceedings that would drag on for the next five months.

In January, a judge sitting in Paralimni, the nearest town to the party resort, found her guilty of fabricating the rape claim and sentenced her to four months in prison, suspended for three years, for the crime of fomenting public mischief.

With the ITV documentary again putting the case in the news, Greek Cypriot police rebutted suggestions of improper conduct, saying all the officers involved had not only followed the right procedures but had been exonerated in court.

“The court ruled that there was nothing wrong in the way the officers acted,” the force’s spokesman, Christos Andreou, told the Guardian in Nicosia, the capital. “The court said that, not the police, and so there is nothing more to say.”

The Briton is trying to clear her name by taking her case to Cyprus’s supreme court, but her case is expected to be substantially delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her lawyer, Nicoletta Charalambidou, who is overseeing the appeal said: “The court had instructed us to submit skeleton arguments but everything has now been suspended. A new date has not been set.”

The Derbyshire student has vowed to go all the way to the European court of human rights, if need be, with activists saying the case has highlighted the problem of rape – and women frequently not being believed by authorities when they report it – and the trauma associated with sexual assault.

Zelia Gregoriou, who teaches gender politics at the University of Cyprus, said. “We will all be there supporting her again. Ours is a dragon that doesn’t want to sleep, it is very much awake and it wants justice.”