International outcry over Cyprus rape verdict

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A campaign to boycott Cyprus has swept social media amid fury over a 19-year-old British woman’s conviction for ‘lying’ about being gang-raped by 12  Israeli men.

The teenage Briton was found guilty of causing public mischief after admitting to police she had lied about being gang-raped by Israeli youths.

During her trial, the woman said her retraction of the rape allegation was coerced.

Cyprus on Tuesday said it had “full confidence” in the justice system after criticism over the conviction of a British teenager for lying about being gang-raped.

“The Government has full confidence in the judiciary and the Courts of the Republic of Cyprus, which should be strictly left to enforce the laws of the state and to administer justice,” said a statement by Cypriot government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos.

He said the government does not intervene in ongoing court cases or comment on allegations about those proceedings.

A #BoycottCyprus hashtag erupted on social media following Monday’s Cypriot court, online petitions to drop all charges against the teenager have soared.

Meanwhile, international media, with the UK papers at the forefront, questioned the Cyprus justice system and its intent.

British media has followed the case since it was brought before a Famagusta court in July, raising concerns about court proceedings.

Some media, such as the Daily Mail criticised Cypriot justice, saying it did not protect the 19-year-old at all.

One Daily Mail report read “her reputation has become fragmented; she has lost her spot at the university she was to go in September and is so traumatised she needs medication.

She has been trapped on the island since July, with only her mother to support her financially and emotionally”.

Initially, the teenager had alleged that 12 Israelis raped her on July 17 at a hotel in the resort of Ayia Napa, a magnet for younger tourists attracted by its beaches and nightlife.

Ten days later, the Israelis aged 15 to 18 were released without charge after the woman was arrested on suspicion of “making a false statement about an imaginary crime”, according to Cypriot police.

The Israelis have denied any allegation of assault and have since returned home.

The individuals she had accused of assaulting her were not summoned to court because prosecutors considered it a case of public mischief and not rape.

Even the British government has expressed concerns over the way Cyprus’ justice system has treated the teenager.

According to the Daily Mail, the #BoycottCyprus campaign erupted after Steve Brookstein, the first-ever winner of the music talent show X-Factor, tweeted: ‘Women. If you #believe her then don’t go to Cyprus. #boycottcyprus.’

Femi Oluwole, a UK political activist and co-founder of the pro-European Union advocacy group, Our Future Our Choice, tweeted his disgust at the ruling. ‘There is only one thing you need to know.

Her retraction came after 7 hours of police interrogation without a lawyer present. Huge violation of both police procedure and human rights.’

Rigid Justice

Meanwhile, former Cyprus Attorney General Alecos Markides said he had sent a joint letter with another former Attorney General Petros Clerides and ex -Justice Minister Kypros Chrisostomides to the current Attorney General Costas Clerides, asking him to intervene to revoke charges against the teenager.

Markides told Politis radio that it was not in the public interest to go after the teenager, and in doing so the country has taken a blow.

“The damage done to the public interest is that such a case has received extensive publicity, as the legal system appears to be crushing a 19-year-old tourist, leaving her stranded in Cyprus for 5 months.

A 19-year-old girl with no criminal record, who had never committed any criminal offence, forbidding her to leave the country, forcing her to resort to public fundraising in order to survive. This rigidness of the court has provoked an international reaction,” said Markides.

On Tuesday, Clerides issued a statement saying it was up the courts to decide on whether the woman’s allegation about the police and unfair treatment were valid.

He said any issues linked to accusations of an unfair trial were “purely legal-constitutional matters which must be decided by the court”.

“Any intervention by the Attorney General, either for reasons of public interest or otherwise, would be nothing more than an obstacle to the establishment of the facts and intervening in legal procedures,” said Clerides.