A British teenager has been handed a four-month suspended jail sentence after being found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in a Cyprus resort town last summer.
The 19-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced at a district court in Paralimni on Tuesday. Lawyer Lewis Power told reporters outside the court that the sentence would be suspended for three years.
The woman had previously been found guilty on a single charge of causing public mischief, in a high-profile case that has been closely followed by women’s rights activists.
She claimed she was attacked by 12 Israeli tourists on July 17 at the Pambos Napa Rocks hotel in the resort of Ayia Napa, where she was staying. But 10 days later the woman retracted her statement, and police arrested her.
Another one of the woman’s lawyers, Michael Polak, from the advocacy group Justice Abroad, previously told CNN that she had been coerced into making the statement, had been denied legal representation, and was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Her legal team told reporters outside the court Tuesday that she would be returning home to Britain later that day. They will be challenging her conviction, taking it to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, the UK’s PA Media news agency reported.
It added that during sentencing, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told the court:
“All the evidence shows that she had lied and prevented the police from doing other serious jobs.”
The judge added that the woman’s “psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends and academic studies this year” had led him to “give her a second chance” and suspend the sentence for three years.
The woman spent more than a month in prison before being granted bail. Her passport was retained, and she has not been able to leave the country until now.
“Whilst we welcome the fact that the sentence imposed today allows her to go home, we strongly contest the conviction and the fight for her innocence will go on regardless,” said the woman’s lawyer, Lewis Power, on leaving the court, PA reported.
“We say and will maintain that this young girl was stripped both of her dignity and her basic human rights.”
The case has been closely followed by rights activists, who say it has been mishandled. Dozens of supporters, many having traveled from Israel, applauded the woman and her mother on leaving the court.
They held placards which said “we believe you” and “you are not alone.” Some wore white scarves over their faces portraying lips sewn together.
In the UK, opposition Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who is also a candidate for party leader, tweeted that:
“The message this case sends to victims is that they will become the accused if they report rape.”
None of the Israeli youths involved were called to give evidence in the case.
Nir Yaslovitzh, a lawyer representing them, previously told CNN:
“I applaud the court’s decision to convict the girl.”
“I hope that the court will find it appropriate to aggravate the punishment imposed on the girl, who refuses to this day to take responsibility for the horrible act she has done against the boys.”