High-stakes rape verdict turns political

High-stakes rape verdict turns political

A Cypriot prominent attorney says the British teen convicted of fabricating rape allegations should get a presidential pardon, while an experienced human rights lawyer says there is solid ground for an appeal.

Achilleas Demetriades, a well-known human rights lawyer in Cyprus, says the state should consider pardoning the British teen, who was found guilty of public mischief on Monday after a judge said she had lied to police back in July.

The teen had filed a complaint with police about an alleged gang rape by a group of Israeli teens in a hotel room in Ayia Napa. Twelve Israeli teens were quickly arrested following the complaint and subsequently released, while a week after the initial complaint police charged the 19-year-old after she retracted the rape claims. Her defense insisted she recanted the story after being coerced by aggressive investigators.

Demetriades, who spoke with Kathimerini Cyprus, said the country’s reputation was on the line and called for a “deep analysis” into the events that drove the prosecution of the teen forward.

“In this case, matters of public interest are at stake, along with the reputation of Cyprus and the credibility of its justice system,” Demetriades said.

Critics both on the island and abroad were quick to condemn the verdict, including the decision to prosecute the teen in the first place, while the defense team argued that their client did not get a fair trial.

The teen’s defense attorneys said Judge Michalis Papathanasiou would frequently refuse to consider evidence which supported the fact that the teenager had been raped, while reminding everyone in his court “this is not a rape trial, it is not about rape.”

They also argued that their client’s human rights were violated after a long interrogation where she signed a retraction statement without the presence of a legal defender. The judge said he was not convinced during a trial within a trial over police coercion allegations.

Demetriades, who cautioned that a clear picture could be possible after sentencing next week, agreed that “withdrawing a statement without legal consultation raises serious questions over the treatment” the teen had received.

The Cypriot human rights lawyer went on to say that the situation could be resolved simply by the attorney general recommending to the President that he pardon the British teen.

But another human rights lawyer, Jonathan Cooper who also has experience before English and international courts and tribunals, appeared to disagree with the notion of a presidential pardon, saying the British teen had a solid basis to appeal the conviction.

“The problem with a pardon is you’ve got to accept that you did something to be pardoned for,” Cooper told British media.

The teen is facing up to a year in prison. She already spent over four weeks at Nicosia’s Central Prisons while she is currently released on bail but cannot leave the country. The defense attorneys, who have already announced plans to appeal the conviction, are planning to request expedited process from the Supreme Court, which is said to be flooded with cases.

Sentencing is currently scheduled for Tuesday, January 7.

[Kathimerini Cyprus]

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