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UK woman takes Ayia Napa rape ordeal to ECHR

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Lawyers for a British woman cleared of lying about being gang-raped in Ayia Napa are taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights after Cypriot authorities closed the investigation.

The police and state Legal Services had said they were looking into whether they should reopen the Ayia Napa rape case by bringing in a new investigation team.

Reopening the case was deemed a ’long shot’ as the suspects live outside the country.

The 21-year-old university student went from victim to accused following her harrowing ordeal in Cyprus in July 2019 when up to 12 Israeli men targeted her.

Police initially held a group of Israeli tourists in connection with the attack, but they were later released when the woman, 19 at the time, was charged with ‘public mischief’ and accused of lying.

Defence lawyers argued the woman had PTSD, and 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.

Cyprus police failed to download data from suspects’ phones and detained suspects together rather than separately.

It is claimed that the Israelis filmed the alleged sexual assault on their mobile phones.

In 2020 she was given a four-month suspended jail sentence, but after an appeal, the conviction was quashed in February, but the landmark victory has turned sour after the Cyprus Attorney General ruled out a new investigation.

The woman and her legal team hoped the police would reopen the case and she would get justice and have now taken the fight to the ECHR in Strasbourg.

Unsafe

Her lawyer Michael Polak QC, from campaign group Justice Abroad, exclusively told MailOnline: ‘The Court of Appeal in Cyprus ruled her initial conviction was unsafe, and it was set aside.

“The girl and her family had hoped that this would lead authorities in Cyprus to reinvestigate the case so justice could be done, but they have decided not to do so, and that has left us disappointed.

“The Attorney General’s decision comes following the success of our client’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus, where that Court not only set out the many legal failures in the case against her but also covered the procedural failures in the investigation of her rape complaint.

‘In Cyprus, the decision of the Attorney General to initiate or discontinue criminal prosecutions is not subject to any appeal or review.

“As such, there are no domestic remedies available to our client to challenge the Attorney General’s decision not to order a proper investigation into the rape complaint.”

Polak said their submission to the ECHR would argue that the woman’s rights were breached in that the probe of the original offence was so poor as to amount to a breach of Cyprus’ obligation to investigate and prosecute sexual crimes properly.

“It was clear that his case was replete with investigatory failures, and it is only fair that an investigation by an independent objective investigator should take place.

“Under the European Convention on Human Rights, there is a right to have sexual offences properly investigated, and this has been breached by the Attorney General’s decision not to order an investigation following the Supreme Court’s ruling, which found in favour of our client and held that there was numerous failure in the original investigation as well as abject misunderstanding of the evidence in the case.”

Polak criticised the Cyprus government for failing “to carry out any review of positive changes to protect victims of sexual offences since the Supreme Court delivered its strong judgement in January 2022.

“We are confident that the European Court will find in our favour, and we continue to encourage the Attorney General to review his decision in this case.”

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment to the UK’s MailOnline.