A British student who was convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has vowed to clear her name.
The 21-year-old, from Derby, has launched an appeal against the 'unsafe' conviction after she was handed a suspended four-month jail term last year.
She told police on the island that she was attacked by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party town of Ayia Napa on July 17 2019, but was charged after signing a retraction statement 10 days later.
The accused men and boys, aged between 15 and 20 at the time, who were arrested over the incident denied any wrongdoing and were freed.
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A Cypriot judge found the woman, who was 19 at the time, guilty of public mischief following a trial at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni.
However, the woman maintains that she was pressured by officers to withdraw the rape allegation and has now launched an appeal in an attempt to get the conviction overturned.
Her lawyers have argued that the retraction statement, which formed the basis of the prosecution case, should never have been admitted into evidence because it was made by a vulnerable teenager who had spent almost seven hours in a police station without a lawyer.
Her team of English and Cypriot lawyers, who are arguing the conviction is unsafe and should be set aside, took her appeal to the Supreme Court in the capital Nicosia today (Thursday).
The woman did not attend the two-hour hearing, conducted in Greek in front of a panel of three judges, including the English-born president of the Supreme Court, Persefoni Panayi.
Adamos Demosthenous, representing the Cyprus attorney general, said the appeal should not be heard because the woman had criticised the trial judge in an ITV documentary, but the court ruled against the submission and heard the arguments.
Her Cypriot lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou, said the lower court started from the position that there was no rape and had misunderstood the offence of public mischief, which requires a false statement of a make-believe crime.
She said the trial judge, Michalis Papathanasiou, did not allow the defendant to talk about the alleged rape, pointing to the seven times he said: “This is not a rape trial.”
He was also said to have ignored defence expert evidence and failed to consider police failures in investigating the rape allegations.
Sentencing her last January, the judge said the evidence showed she had “lied” but added: “Her psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends and academic studies this year, this has led me to decide to give her a second chance and suspend the sentence for three years.”
The Supreme Court judges reserved judgment on the appeal.
A ruling is expected in up to six months.
Speaking after the hearing the woman’s English barrister, Lewis Power QC, said: “I think it was a very fruitful hearing where the court asked very poignant questions, considered the legal arguments and identified the points which will ultimately decide this appeal.
“We cannot pre-empt the decision of the court, but we were glad to see the court had given much thought and considerable consideration to a very, very difficult case.”
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Another member of the legal team, Michael Polak, added: “Without wanting to pre-judge the decision of the Supreme Court, we feel we were happy with the way proceedings went today and the way the judges engaged with our arguments.”
Mr Power added: “This is the biggest case here in the last decade beyond a shadow of a doubt and the world is watching.
“It is so important for young women across the world. This case is a beacon.”
He said he had spoken to the woman and her mother, adding: “She’s bearing up really well. She is getting on with her life at university.
“She is very anxious about the result but she is fairly upbeat and determined that this won’t ruin her life.
“We spoke to her yesterday and her mother. They are back in the UK watching from afar.”
If the appeal fails, the lawyers plan to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which the woman’s lawyers said found against Cyprus after a teenager was taken to a police station in Limassol and separated from his father before confessing to murder without a lawyer present.