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Everything you need to know about the Cyprus gang rape case appeal

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Anna Brech
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Cyprus rape case: everything you need to know

The British teenager was originally given a four-month suspended prison sentence for lying about an “imaginary” gang rape.

The British woman found guilty of falsely claiming to be a victim of gang rape in Cyprus has launched an appeal against her conviction.

The 19-year-old had been given a four-month suspended prison sentence on 7 January, but was allowed to return to England last week. She was found guilty of public mischief for alleging that a group of 12 Israeli tourists had raped her in a hotel room the previous July.

Her lawyers said the appeal was submitted to the Supreme Court of Cyprus on Thursday. Michael Polak, from the Justice Abroad group, said that she did not receive a fair trial.

He added: “The conviction of the teenager not only breaches the teenager’s rights under Cypriot law, but it also amounts to a breach of Cyprus’s international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and as a member of the European Union.”

The case has tapped into wider conversations around rape convictions and a culture of victim-blaming

Her conviction had attracted widespread criticism from around the world, with women’s rights groups protesting outside the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni before sentencing.

There were fears that the teenager could face jail time in the country after the judge ruled that she caused public mischief “over an imaginary offence”.

According to her original testimony, she decided to have consensual sex with one of the group, but as she did so, the other men entered the room, held her down and gang-raped her. 

However, she retracted her claims after an eight-hour police interrogation. Her defence lawyers said this happened under duress and without any legal representation. 

Her mother told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme before the verdict that the police had said they would arrest her if she didn’t sign the confession, and that if she did sign the confession they would let her go.

“She just wanted to get out of there,” she said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the woman added that her daughter is suffering from severe PTSD as a result of the alleged attack.

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A forensic pathologist who testified at the trial said the woman’s injuries were consistent with being raped, although a second doctor called by the prosecution said bruising on her legs could have been caused by bumping into furniture.

Protestors from Cypriot protest group the Network Against Violence Against Women filled the courtroom when the verdict was given, chanting: “We are here, we believe you.”

The activists, along with the teenager and her mother, wore “gagging” masks painted with sewn lips outside the court, to represent a culture of silence and repression around rape. 

Online, protestors also picked up the rallying call, as the hashtag #ibelieveher began to trend on Twitter. There were also calls to boycott the country.

Many linked the case to a broader trend towards victim blaming that prevents so many rape survivors from ever finding justice.

Others criticised the way the media covered the incident.

Many people also shared information on the handling of the original rape charge, and the written confession that occurred as a result.

And some called for the Foreign Office to get involved through diplomatic channels to help the woman at the centre of the case.

The men originally accused of gang rape deny all allegations. They were filmed celebrating at an airport as they were released and returned home days after the alleged incident. 

None of them were called to give evidence in the trial, after the judge determined that he was deciding whether the woman lied, rather than if she was raped.

In contrast, the woman spent four weeks in prison on the island of Cyprus and was unable to leave until sentencing ruled that she be allowed to return home. 

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This article was originally published on 7 January 2020 and has been updated throughout. 

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, seek confidential help and support with Rape Crisis.

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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