Cyprus Police Clear Israelis of Suspected Gang Rape, Arrest British Accuser

Police sources say 19-year-old woman is suspected of misleading authorities over assault by 12 Israelis, but latest developments leave many questions unanswered

Suspects cover their faces with their shirts as they arrive at the Famagusta courthouse in Paralamni, Cyprus, Friday, July 26, 2019.
Petros Karadjias,AP

Cyprus police released Sunday seven Israelis suspected of gang rape of a 19-year-old British tourist, who was then arrested under suspicion of misleading authorities.

All accusations against the group of 12 Israelis, five of them released last week, were cancelled, according to sources involved in the investigation. Cyprus police have returned the passports belonging to the Israelis and they are expected to return to the country Sunday evening. 

The alleged victim, who according to media reports had retracted her testimony, was questioned by the Cypriot police on Saturday night, after which it was decided to keep her in custody. "Rape never took place," said a police source of the case at the resort town of Ayia Napa.

The state-run Cyprus News Agency reported that the woman allegedly told investigators she filed a rape report because she was "angry and insulted" that a number of the Israelis allegedly recorded video of her having sex with some of them.

Yaniv Habari, a lawyer representing several of the Israelis, said police had earlier provided DNA samples to Israeli authorities to locate three individuals who may have been implicated in the case. But with the case collapsing, that assistance is deemed no longer necessary.

However, the latest development in the case leave many questions unanswered. It is unclear if the accuser filed a new complaint and why some of the teens had deleted videos from the night of the incident. Authorities are also trying to figure out what led the woman to change her version of events. 

One of the teens’ fathers told Haaretz: “I’ve always said, our children were innocent and not guilty. We know our kids, and if they’d been in a similar situation they would have prevented it.” He also said the family “intends to press charges against the accuser.”

Last week, videos from the night of the incident were spread on social media. Following his release, the main suspect said that the woman consented to the acts and their filming. He asked to send a message that "one should think twice and make girls sign a contract before doing such things." Non-consensual documentation of sexual acts as well as its distribution is a criminal offense in Israel. 

The mayor of Ayia Napa Yiannis Karousas tweeted on Sunday: "The rape proved to be fake. The so called victim stated that everything was consensual, and that she invited them. She has been arrested. Time to publish the truth and be a bit nicer to our city."

Nir Yaslovitzh, who represents four of the teens, told Israeli Army Radio that the alleged victim's version of events "turned out to be false as a result of evidence that we provided to the investigation team" in Cyprus.

Yaslovitzh said he cautioned the media not to jump to conclusions regarding the suspects' guilt, "because I knew from 1,001 indications that these boys were not connected to the alleged incident."

The 12 original suspects are all Israeli nationals aged 16 to 19. During his initial interrogation, the main suspect denied all connections to the complainant, but later went on to admit that they had had sexual relations twice before the incident.

According to his version of events, he and another friend had consensual sex with the complainant that night, and no one else was in the room. He changed his story again later on, saying that a few friends entered the room, but only watched. 

According to a report released by the police in the Cypriot city of Famagusta, the main suspect ignored the complainant's pleas to stop and became violent; the suspect then called his friends into the room, and about a dozen people entered and watched. Some allegedly joined in the assault, and a few filmed it on their phones.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.