LONDON — A 19-year-old British woman was found guilty Monday of lying about being gang-raped by 12 Israeli men while on a working vacation in Cyprus, and the judge in the case charged her with causing “public mischief.”
Attorneys for the defendant have accused Cypriot police of forcing the 19-year-old to retract her original statement after seven hours of questioning without appropriate legal representation present. Police have denied the accusation. The attorneys also said that the woman was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.
“People suffering with PTSD can make retraction statements just to get themselves out of the situation in which they find themselves,” lawyer Michael Polak told the BBC after the verdict. Polak, director of Justice Abroad, a British organization that is supporting the teen and her family, added that the conviction was “very worrying for a number of reasons.”
“We maintain that the statement was given under duress and in breach of her rights, resulting in the collapse of the initial investigation and charges of public mischief being made against her,” the victim’s family wrote on a fundraising page that has raised more than $70,000 for her defense.
On Monday, Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said: “My conclusion is that the guilt of the accused has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.” The woman faces up to a year in jail and a fine of 1,700 euros ($1,900).
Earlier in December, pathologist Marios Matsaki told the court during the trial that he had no doubt that “violence was exercised” and that injuries displayed by the defendant were “consistent with the rape having taken place.”
Matsaki highlighted in his report that the woman’s injuries included “bruises to the knees, the legs, the buttocks, broken skin near the ankle, scratches up underneath the underwear, bruising to the wrist.” He also said that the bruises had not been measured or closely photographed during the physical examination — something he would have expected to see.
Matsaki expressed concern that the state pathologist’s report was missing basic details about the woman, such as her height and weight, and that her clothing was apparently not examined.
On Monday, the woman was photographed leaving court after the trial with her face covered as the hashtag #Ibelieveher trended in second place on Twitter in the United Kingdom. Many Britons expressed shock about the case, while others proclaimed solidarity with the woman.
“The judge has been very strict,” defense attorney Nicoletta Charalambidou told the Guardian outside the court in Paralimni. “He has rejected all the witnesses of defense and our repeated requests to expedite the case. Our hope is that he will show leniency, but we will of course be appealing this judgment.” The defense team “respectfully” disagrees with the court’s decision, she added.
“We believe there have been many violations of the procedure, and the rights of a fair trial of our client have been violated,” Charalambidou told reporters. “We are planning to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, and if justice fails … we are planning to take our case to the European Court of Human Rights.”
In an update on the family’s GoFundMe page, the teen’s parents said they found it “really hard” to listen to the graphic details of the case that emerged during the trial, which began in October. “No one wants to think that any of their loved ones would ever have to go through anything like this, let alone be subject to being imprisoned, then having to relive the details in an open court room, multiple times,” they wrote on Dec. 8.
The sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7.