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Cyprus court overturns UK woman’s conviction for lying about gang rape

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By Euronews  with AP
Protesters hold banners in support of the British woma, outside of Cyprus' Supreme Court in Nicosia.
Protesters hold banners in support of the British woma, outside of Cyprus' Supreme Court in Nicosia.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

A court in Cyprus has overturned the conviction of a British woman for allegedly lying about being gang-raped.

The woman was given a four-month suspended sentence last year after being found guilty of making up the allegation and causing public mischief.

She had claimed that she was gang-raped by up to 12 tourists in a hotel room in Ayia Napa in July 2019.

But the Supreme Court of Cyprus has overturned her guilty verdict in what her defence lawyers have called a "watershed moment".

In a statement, the woman’s family expressed relief that Cypriot authorities “recognised the flaws in their legal process”.

“Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated by the police or the judge or those in authority, it does bring with it the hope that my daughter’s suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way victims of crime are treated,” the statement said.

A group of activists who gathered at the steps of the supreme court also cheered and clapped as the ruling was announced.

Michael Polak, part of the legal team representing the woman, welcomed the decision for his client and others “around the world who find themselves in similar positions”.

Polak said the supreme court had agreed that the British woman did not receive a fair trial in 2020.

He said the “young, vulnerable woman was not only mistreated” when she reported the rape to police but was also put through a trial that was “manifestly unfair”.

Lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou called the ruling “a very important day for women’s rights” in Cyprus and said the defence team would further question why authorities failed to “effectively investigate” the rape claims.

Activists have said that the woman — who was 19 years old at the time of her trial — was suffering from a stress disorder and had been pressured by investigators into making an “unreliable” confession.

Lower court judge Michalis Papathanasiou said in his original ruling that the woman had not told the truth and had tried to deceive the court during her testimony with "evasive" statements.

He also said the woman had admitted to investigators that she made up the claims because she was “ashamed” after finding a video of her having consensual sex with her Israeli boyfriend on the accused's phones.

The Israeli men and teenagers who were arrested over the incident have denied any wrongdoing, were freed and returned home.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the British government had said it had raised “numerous concerns” with Cypriot authorities about the judicial process in the case and the woman’s right to a fair trial.

The woman -- now aged 21 -- had threatened to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in her attempt to clear her name.