British teen in rape trial gets suspended jail term in Cyprus

PARALIMNI, Cyprus (Reuters) – A British teenager accused of faking a gang rape allegation was given a suspended sentence by a court in Cyprus on Tuesday, prompting protests from activists who say she did not get a fair trial.

The 19-year-old has said she was coerced into withdrawing her complaint that she was raped in July by a group of Israeli youths in Ayia Napa, a holiday resort popular with teenagers.

She was sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for three years. Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said he took into account the woman’s young age, clean criminal record and remorse.

“All mitigating factors were taken into account but it does not negate the seriousness of the offense,” he said, noting that 12 individuals were briefly detained on the basis of her accusation.

Outside the court room a group of about 150 women demonstrated, shouting “blaming the victim is the second rape” and “Cyprus justice shame on you”. The judge had to raise his voice over the chants.

On Dec. 30 the court found the woman guilty of public mischief, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, a fine, or both. She was convicted of filing a fake report about being sexually assaulted.

Her lawyers say she will appeal to clear her name.

The woman insists that an attack took place but that she was pressured to withdraw her complaint during overnight questioning from police and with no lawyer present.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has ‘very serious concerns’ about the treatment of the woman, who had been banned from leaving the island and whom her lawyers say is suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Twelve Israeli youths who were detained for questioning were swiftly released after the woman recanted her accusation. They were not required to give any evidence at the woman’s trial.

Cypriot newspapers have reported that authorities were poised to give a presidential pardon. A senior government source told Reuters that was premature and would depend on the court sentencing, but that President Nicos Anastasiades was following the case closely.

The case has drawn a harsh spotlight on Cyprus, which is popular with British holidaymakers, and calls to boycott the island.

(This story corrects day to Tuesday)

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