PARALIMNI, Cyrpus — A British woman was convicted by a Cyprus court Monday for lying to authorities when she accused a dozen Israeli men of raping her and later retracted her statement, the latest twist in a case that divided public opinion in Cyprus and Israel.
The British woman, who was 19 when she made the accusation and has not been publicly identified, had accused the men, who ranged in age from 15 to 18, of raping her in a hotel room in the resort town of Ayia Napa in July. The men were arrested that month but were later released after police said the woman had retracted the accusations.
Marios Christou, the chief investigating officer in the case, testified during the legal proceedings that she had “admitted that she reported the incident” because the men “were recording her having sex” and “she felt insulted.” He also pointed to inconsistencies between her statement and video footage from the night on which she said she was raped.
On Monday, the Famagusta District Court in Cyprus convicted her of public mischief. She is due to be sentenced Jan. 7 and could face up to a year in prison and a fine of 1,700 euros, or around $1,900. She can appeal the verdict, and her lawyers have asked for a suspended sentence.
“She did not tell the truth and tried to mislead the court,” said Michalis Papathanasiou, the judge in the case. “There was no rape, or violence, and the police had carried out a thorough investigation, making all necessary arrests.”
On Monday, the court was full, and members of several women’s rights organizations attended in support of the woman on trial. The groups protested outside the court after the decision.
The woman pleaded not guilty when her trial began Oct. 2. But proceedings were paused when a separate hearing began later that month to determine whether the police had forced her to change her original statement and withdraw the rape accusation, as she claimed.
That hearing concluded Nov. 28 when a judge ruled that her retraction was admissible as evidence in her initial trial, according to a statement last month from Justice Abroad, a legal charity that has assisted her. Christou, the investigating officer, testified that the police had not pressured her to change her stance.
At her trial, the woman said that she was in a romantic relationship with one of the accused men, according to Justice Abroad.
She testified that she had consensual sex with the man in his hotel room July 17, but that he “turned more aggressive than usual.” Other young men then entered the room, she said, adding that she had told them to leave.
She said that one of the men had immobilized her by shoving his knees on her shoulders, and that because she lost consciousness during the episode, she did not know how many of the men had assaulted her, according to Justice Abroad.
She said that she eventually managed to escape and then went to a nearby clinic. The doctor who examined her that day called the police.
The woman later told the court that the police had pressured her to retract the accusations July 27 after she was held for four hours at a police station where she had been taken to give a voluntary statement.
“They asked me to say that it wasn’t a rape,” she said in court.
Andrea Nini, a forensic linguist, testified during the proceedings that it was likely that a paragraph in the statement had been dictated to the woman by someone who spoke English as a second language.
The woman’s legal team argued that she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The woman also said that while she was in the police station, she was not allowed to call her mother, who was in Cyprus at the time.
“I said, ‘Mum has a law degree, and I know my rights and I want a lawyer,’” she testified, adding that Christou told her that “maybe that’s allowed in the U.K., but not in Cyprus.”
She spent more than a month in prison after being charged with public mischief and has not been able to leave Cyprus for more than six months.
The initial allegations against the 12 men had led to soul searching in Israel, prompting conversations about societal pressures on young men to prove their manliness. But as the case against the men appeared to fall apart, many sprang to their defense, and their relieved families celebrated.
Despite general relief in Israel over the men’s release, many people raised ethical questions over issues like drunkenness and sexual consent, as well as reports that the woman had been recorded on video without her permission. Many Israelis were embarrassed by the celebratory scenes at the airport when the men arrived home and were greeted with singing and dancing.
Nir Yaslovitch, an Israeli lawyer who represented several of the men, told the Hebrew news site Ynet on Monday that he was considering pursuing a civil case against the British woman for the damage caused to his clients.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company