U.K. Tourist in Cyprus Rape Case: I Was Forced to Retract Accusations Against Israelis

19-year-old's legal counsel says she was pressured by police, denied access to lawyer before purportedly confessing to fabricating accusations against 12 Israelis

British tourists taken into police custody, Cyprus, July 2019.
AFP

A British tourist said she was pressured to retract her rape allegations against 12 Israeli men by the Cyprus police after they threatened to arrest her friends on conspiracy charges, according to Justice Abroad, the organization providing legal assistance to the teenager's family.

Cyprus police released seven Israelis who were arrested on suspicion of gang raping of the 19-year-old woman last Sunday. The tourist was then arrested on suspicion of misleading authorities. All accusations against the group of 12 Israelis, five of whom were released two weeks ago, were dropped.

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According to Justice Abroad, subsequent police reports stating that the tourist voluntarily recanted her allegations have been denied by the family. The organization cited family members as asserting that the teenager was taken to the police station while on medications, where she provided a further statement about the allegations. A police officer told her he believed she was lying and urged her to write a confession and that he would arrest her friends in Cyprus if she did not agree. She requested a lawyer and was denied, according to the organization.

The teenager then said "you have to be f***ing joking" and left the room crying, and was threatened upon her return to be charged with "swearing at a police officer," according to the Justice Abroad statement. She was then pressured to write a confession, which was dictated to her, against her will, and was told what to include and given a choice as to what reasons to give for making the allegations, the statement said. The teenager refused to sign the statement but was told that she would be arrested if she did not, according to the statement.

She was given another statement to sign but she refused, Justice Abroad said. According to the statement, there are text messages providing contemporaneous evidence of police threatening the arrest of the tourist's friends, and of her refusal to sign an additional statement.

"The family’s position is that the confession was obtained under oppression given the threats made to the teenager, that she was not cautioned, and that she was not given access to a lawyer as was her right under the Cypriot Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights," Justice Abroad wrote. "Further, the teenager was not told that she could leave the Police station nor given the option of leaving at any point. It is also understood that unfortunately none of the proceedings at the Cypriot Police Station were recorded aurally or by video."

British tabloid newspaper The Sun earlier quoted the teenager's attorney as saying she had been pressured to make a confession and was not given the option to leave the police station. 

Responding to Haaretz's inquiries on the matter, the Cyprus police denied the chain of events published by The Sun, calling it "unrealistic."

The police added the investigation into the DNA sample taken from the complainant's hotel room is still ongoing.

"The British tourist will appear before the court on Wednesday, where she can plead guilty or innocent [of falsely accusing the Israeli men]. Should we find the real video spread on social media [of her having sexual relations with some of the Israeli men], they would be suspected of distributing it. At the moment they are not suspects," the police said.

On Tuesday, the tourist was indicted for public nuisance, could be sentenced to up to one year in prison or ordered to pay a fine.

Attorney Nir Yaslovitzh, who represented four of the Israeli men involved in the affair, said on Monday "the complainant is yet again changing her version of events like a chameleon changing its colors. Based on my knowledge of the Cypriot authorities, she is clearly lying and the court will say the same," he said.

Cypriot media outlets reported the woman filed a false complaint because she was upset about being filmed while having consensual sex. Non-consensual documentation of sexual acts as well as its distribution is a criminal offense in Israel.