Cyprus’s highest court on Monday quashed the conviction of a British woman found guilty by a lower court of faking a claim that she was gang-raped on the island in 2019, lawyers said.
The woman appealed in September against the January 2020 verdict of a district court which gave her a suspended four-month prison sentence.
The case caused dismay in Britain and among activists over her treatment by Cypriot authorities. Following Monday’s ruling, lawyers, activists, politicians and the woman’s family said authorities must reopen the initial complaint of the woman having been raped.
“The acquittal by the Supreme Court…points to the failure of the authorities to effectively investigate the rape claims she reported. This is what we will now pursue,” said Nicoletta Charalambidou, one of the Cypriot lawyers for the woman.
The woman, then aged 19, complained in July 2019 that she had been raped by a group of Israeli youths in the resort of Ayia Napa. Days later the complaint was withdrawn, leading to her arrest and subsequent conviction for public mischief.
The woman, who spent several weeks in custody, said she withdrew her complaint under duress after hours of police questioning and without a lawyer present, being offered one, or waiving her right to a lawyer.
The Israeli youths were released hours after her statement, and allowed to return to Israel on the same day with no further process. Media reports at the time said they popped champagne at the airport upon arrival in Israel.
They were not required to give any evidence at the woman’s trial because the case focused on whether she had misled authorities and given a false statement, rather than the alleged rape itself.
In a statement released through Justice Abroad, an advocacy group, the woman’s family echoed the call for a new investigation.
“If justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus and do with it what should have happened at the outset.”
Police said they would study the verdict. Cyprus’s Greens Party said authorities should review the case, and take disciplinary action against police for any failings.
Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, said Cyprus’s Supreme Court agreed the woman was not given a fair trial.
“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 then she was just put through a trial process that was manifestly unfair as the Supreme Court has recognised,” Polak said.