Cyprus’ Supreme Court on Monday overturned the conviction of a young British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped by Israeli tourists.
Defence lawyers said the court agreed they had successfully argued there was a miscarriage of justice in the conviction of ‘public mischief’ by a district court judge in 2020.
A small crowd of supporters outside the Nicosia court clapped when they heard the news of the decision.
Around 40 activists protested outside the court with banners saying “I believe her” and “end rape culture”.
UK-based Justice Abroad assisted the British woman, now 21, and her family in their pursuit of getting the conviction quashed.
In a statement afterwards, Justice Abroad’s Michael Polak, who co-ordinated the appeal against the teenager’s conviction, said: “This is a watershed moment…our client who has always maintained her innocence even when doing so caused her the hardship of not being able to return home during the lengthy trial proceedings.”
“We have always maintained that our client was not given a fair trial, and today the Supreme Court of Cyprus has agreed with us.
“Important fair trial provisions, which are in place to prevent miscarriages of justice, were totally disregarded in this case, and a young and vulnerable woman was not only mistreated when she reported the rape to the police, but she was just put through a trial process that was manifestly unfair as the Supreme Court has recognised.”
Lawyers said the woman was “shouted at and treated with contempt during the original trial.”
“It became clear to those watching that the defence was fighting these proceedings with one hand tied behind our back and that a decision had been made as to guilt from the start of the trial process,” said Polak.
During the hearing, before a three-judge bench, the defence team expanded on the detailed 154-page skeleton argument to explain to the court why the conviction was unsafe.
The woman, who was 19 at the time of her arrest, alleged she was raped by up to 12 Israelis in a hotel room in the seaside party resort of Ayia Napa in July 2019.
She has accused Cypriot police of having forced her to sign a retraction statement, after which the Israeli suspects were released.
A district court in January 2020 convicted her of causing public mischief, handing her a four-month jail term, suspended for three years.
Although the Briton did not attend the hearing, this sentence has been overturned.
Justice Abroad said the woman was suffering from PTSD and that her retraction, taken after she had spent almost seven hours in a police station without a lawyer present, “should never have been admitted” into evidence.
Polak said Cyprus police failed to download data from suspects’ phones and the detention of suspects together rather than separately.
It is alleged the Israelis filmed the alleged sexual assault on their mobile phones.
The woman’s family is requesting the rape case be re-investigated for “true justice” to be served.
“We are pleased that our team has managed to secure this result against the odds and believe that the next step for justice to be done in this case is a full review and investigation by a different police force of the rape complaint put forward by our client,” said Polak.
The woman’s family welcomed the decision with “great relief”.
“Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated, it does bring with it the hope that my daughters’ suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated.
“Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus,” said a family statement.
Defence Lewis Power QC said: “We hope that this decision will have far-reaching implications in the pursuit of justice for other victims of sexual assault.
“We commend the Cypriot Supreme Court for having the courage and wisdom to deliver this judgement.”