Mother of British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus backs tourism boycott

Andrew Woodcock
AFP/Getty

The mother of a British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has backed calls for a tourism boycott of the country.

And the 19-year-old’s mother said she wanted foreign secretary Dominic Raab to get involved personally in the case, which could see her daughter jailed for as long as a year.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she supported the boycott campaign and that she believes the resort town of Ayia Napa is unsafe.

“My personal view is that that’s a good thing to do, because from what I’ve seen … this is not an isolated incident,” she said.

“The place isn’t safe – it is absolutely not safe. And if you go and report something that’s happened to you, you’re either laughed at, as far as I can tell, or, in the worst case, something like what’s happened to my daughter may happen.”

The teenager said she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party town of Ayia Napa on 17 July.

But she was charged and the dozen young men, aged between 15 and 20, who were arrested over the incident, were freed after she signed a retraction statement 10 days later. The teenager claimed in court she was forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police.

Her mother said the 19-year-old is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hallucinations, and is sleeping for up to 20 hours a day because of a condition called hypersomnia.

“She needs to get back to the UK to get that treated – that’s my absolute primary focus. She can’t be treated here because hearing foreign men speaking loudly will trigger an episode...

“It needs resolving otherwise she’s going to carry on having this for the rest of her life,” the woman said.

The mother said she was “heartened” to see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sending representatives to attend her daughter’s court hearings, and urged Mr Raab to get involved to uphold her human rights.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab should get involved, says the girl’s mother (Reuters)

The Foreign Office has said the UK is “seriously concerned” about the fairness of the woman’s trial and it is understood officials have raised the “deeply distressing case” with the Cypriot authorities.

“I’ve got high expectations that our government can actually get some kind of positive outcome out of this,” said the teenager’s mother. “I don’t know whether that will have any impact whatsoever on how Cyprus treats her when she goes in for sentencing.

“I’ve personally not heard from them but they have attended court hearings. There was a representative from the High Commission there when we got the verdict. At a high level, the first time we heard anything was in the statement that they issued recently saying that they were going to do something, to step in.

“Definitely I’d love the foreign secretary to get involved. That would be fantastic. The very important thing from a British perspective is that human rights need to be upheld when this sort of case is going on. I understand there’s a judicial process that has to be followed, but it’s when that starts becoming broken, when her rights haven’t been upheld, that the step-in is required.”

The woman said that her daughter had been subjected to clear human rights violations, including not being offered a lawyer or translators after making her original complaint of rape, and a failure to record questioning by police.

The 19-year-old’s face was covered to protect her identity (AFP/Getty)

Expert analysis showed that the confession allegedly written by her daughter included sentences and phrases which would not be used by a native English speaker, she said.

“We will definitely be appealing the decision, without question,” she said. “The next step is it needs to go to the Supreme Court in Cyprus. That’s something maybe the Foreign Office can help us with, to get it done as soon as we can.

“If that doesn’t provide justice, then we will go to the European Court of Human Rights. But that’s four to eight years we will have to wait. It’s fundamentally life-changing to deal with this.”

A group of senior figures in the Cypriot justice system, including former justice minister Kypros Chrysostomides, have written a joint letter calling for the teenager to be treated with “leniency” by the sentencing court.

“It is a pity that the strict application of the law has led to this result,” Mr Chrysostomides told Radio 4’s World at One.

“We have every sympathy for the young lady. She has been more than enough punished. Therefore we suggest and we expect that the court on 7 January pronouncing the sentence will be very lenient and maybe issue a very minor penalty so that the young lady can leave Cyprus and go back to England.

“The law provides for a €1,000 fine or an imprisonment for one year, but I believe that this would be excessive under the circumstances.”

The mother said her daughter had planned to go to university this year after being accepted for the courses she applied for and being offered a bursary at one institute. But she said that a guilty verdict in the Cypriot courts would prevent her from going ahead with her chosen course of study.

“So, no question, she would have gone to university, but it was in a career that she wouldn’t be able to do with this ‘public mischief’ verdict, so – again, life-changing for her – she needs to totally rethink her options.”

A crowdfunding appeal to raise money for legal support for her daughter has passed £80,000.

The “help teen victim get justice in Cyprus” GoFundMe page was set up by British lawyer John Hobbs in August to raise cash for the 19-year-old’s legal representation.

Lawyers and campaigners criticised the justice system after she was convicted of public mischief at Famagusta District Court, in Paralimni, on Monday.

But the government of Cyprus has said it has “full confidence in the justice system and the courts”.

Cyprus’s attorney general said on Tuesday that he could not suspend the trial because she had levelled “grave accusations” against police investigators that had to be adjudicated in court.

He said the woman’s allegation that police coerced her into retracting her rape claim “could not have been left to linger” so he could not move to suspend the trial.

In a statement, Mr Clerides added: “Any intervention on the part of the attorney general, either for reasons of public interest or any other reasons, would have constituted nothing more than an obstacle to ascertaining the true facts of the case, as well as interference in the judiciary’s work.”

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said he believed the woman had made false allegations because she felt “embarrassed” after realising she had been filmed having sex in a video found on some of the Israelis’ mobile phones.

But the woman’s mother said his argument made “no logical sense”.

“If she had stopped consenting to sex because a video was being taken – which isn’t the case, as there is no such video – that is still rape, isn’t it?” she said.

“The only video taken on the night of the rape shows my daughter having consensual sex with the main guy and it also shows a group of people trying to enter the room. It shows her and the guy telling the people to get out of the room. That gives you a very strong flavour of what happens next, I think.”

The woman has been on bail since the end of August, after spending a month in prison, and could face up to a year in jail and a €1,700 (£1,500) fine when she is sentenced on 7 January.

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