British teen in rape trial gets suspended jail term in Cyprus

The British teenager, with face covered, said she was coerced into retracting an accusation she was gang-raped. (AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2020

British teen in rape trial gets suspended jail term in Cyprus

  • The case has drawn a rare rebuke from Britain
  • Uproar from rights groups concerned the woman did not get a fair trial

PARALIMNI, Cyprus: A Cypriot court on Tuesday handed a British teenager a four-month suspended prison sentence after convicting her of falsely accusing a dozen Israeli tourists of gang rape.

The 19-year smiled and hugged family after the sentence was handed down following a months-long trial that her lawyers say was littered with investigatory and legal mistakes and issues, including repeated refusals by the judge to consider whether she was raped.

The case has sparked protests in Britain and calls for tourists to boycott the island.

The sentencing took place to loud shouts from protesters outside the court room, including around 50 Israelis — mainly women, but some men — who traveled to Cyprus to offer moral support to the woman.

As the judge delivered his sentencing, shouts of “Cyprus justice, shame on you” were audible in the court, despite police ordering journalists to close windows and blinds.

Lawyers for the woman, whom AFP is not naming, say she was raped in the seaside resort of Ayia Napa by 12 Israeli teenagers in their hotel room on July 17.

She fled in distress to her own hotel and was examined by an in-house doctor, who called the police.

A group of Israeli teenagers were arrested and appeared in court, but 10 days after making a complaint of rape she was interviewed again by police and signed a retraction.

The Israelis were allowed to return home and not called as witnesses.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has “firmly and categorically registered” concerns with Cypriot officials about the case.

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou had told the young woman “statements you have given were false,” as he convicted her on December 30.

He said during the trial that her account was beset by “contradictions, confusion, lack of logic and exaggeration.”

Lewis Power, a British lawyer who is part of the woman’s legal team, said she would leave Cyprus by the end of the day.

An appeal to the Supreme Court “will begin in the next few days,” but it is not clear when any case will be heard, because the “wheels of justice move very slowly in Cyprus,” he said.

The case has highlighted “a gaping chasm in the treatment” of victims of sexual assault in Cyprus relative to other jurisdictions, Power added.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.