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British woman fights conviction over ‘false gang rape’ 

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Defence lawyers for a British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus by Israeli tourists launched an appeal against her ‘unfair’ conviction at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The woman, then 19, alleged she was raped by 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the popular resort of Ayia Napa on 17 July 2019.

She then claimed Cypriot police coerced her to sign a retraction statement.

But a Famagusta District Court convicted her of causing public mischief, handing her a four-month jail term, suspended for three years on 7 January 2020.

On Thursday, grounds for appeal against the public mischief conviction were given before the Supreme Court; the woman did not attend.

The defence argues the conviction is “unsafe” and should be set aside for several reasons.

UK-based Justice Abroad said the retraction statement taken after the teenager, who was suffering from PTSD, had spent almost 7 hours in the police station, and without the presence of a lawyer, “should never have been admitted” into evidence.

Lawyer Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, said: “The retraction statement should not have been allowed in the trial process.

“She was denied access to a lawyer, and there was no unambiguous waiver saying she didn’t want legal representation.”

Polak said the court should not have accepted the retraction statement as it was made under duress without a lawyer present.

“The major problem when people are in Cyprus police custody is that nothing is recorded, there are no safeguards, no record of what actually happened.”

He said the conviction breached the teenager’s rights under Cypriot and international law.

The appeal is also based on the trial judge refusing to accept evidence that a rape took place.

“The judge closed his mind to this element of the case; he’d already made the decision there had been no rape,” said Polak.

The teenager claimed she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in Ayia Napa on 17 July, before being charged herself after signing a retraction statement 10 days later.

She maintains she was raped but was forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police following hours of questioning alone and without legal representation.

Polak said if there is no success in Cyprus, he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

He hopes the Supreme Court “considers all the arguments” for the conviction to be overturned, so his client can move on from her ordeal.

“She’s a young girl, and the conviction makes it difficult for her, like applying for a job.

“It would be of some help for her recovery if she didn’t have this conviction hanging over her.”

The court is expected to take months before coming to a decision.

His client is “a young girl, and the conviction makes it difficult for her, like applying for a job”, the lawyer said. “It would help her recovery if she didn’t have this conviction hanging over her.”

The court is expected to take months before coming to a decision.

“I get really stressed over nothing… Rationally, I know it’s obviously not that which is stressing me out; it’s the other bigger things like now it’s the appeal,” the woman herself said in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.

“Everything is just a lot more stressful now, and it has brought everything back up to the surface.”