Ayia Napa mayor Yiannos Karousos on Thursday blamed the transformation of the resort and Cyprus in general into “an open-air club” after 12 teenage Israeli tourists were remanded by the Paralimni court for eight days on suspicion of raping a British woman, 19.
Karousos said the whole thing was saddening, and while Ayia Napa steps up police patrols every year, the issue partly lies with the conditions “that we have allowed to transpire within our tourism which have led us to this point,” he said. Ayia Napa and Cyprus in general had been transformed into “an open-air club”, Karousos added.
The 12 suspects covered their faces with their tee-shirts as they arrived at the courthouse in Paralimni on Thursday morning amid a media frenzy. Several highly-emotional parents and relatives of the 12 who had flown over from Israel were also gathered outside the court.
Defence lawyers asked the court for the hearing to be held behind closed doors as one of the suspects was a minor, aged 16.
Reports said that two of the 12 suspects confessed to having sexual intercourse with the 19-year-old, while an unspecified number recorded the incident on their mobile phones. Other reports said three of the suspects admitted to having sex with the girl. Police would not confirm the particulars.
Some of the suspects claim they were not even in the room.
Three of the suspects were brought to court separately from the others. The other nine arrived about an hour later in a police vehicle. Those who allegedly admitted to having sex with the girl reportedly told police it was consensual.
Both the suspects and the alleged victim were medically examined by a state pathologist. Israeli media outlets, which are in contact with the suspects’ families who were allowed into the closed-door hearing said that documents presented to the court by the prosecution included a medical report which said the victim had scratches on her lower limbs.
In her report filed to police on Wednesday morning, the 19-year-old told police that she initially agreed to meet up with one of the Israeli suspects, with whom she had met three days before and had sexual intercourse with several times at his hotel room. But after a party on Tuesday night, suddenly 11 more men showed up.
She said some proceeded to rape her while others laughed and recorded the incident on their mobile phones as she screamed.
Reports said the 19-year-old exited the hotel screaming that she had just been raped, after which some young British men who were in the area tracked down and beat up some of the suspects, they added.
Other reports said one of the 12 suspects claimed he was assaulted by other tourists, while another claimed he was subsequently beaten by police.
“The police hit us, they broke our noses, and the girl is lying”, the teens’ lawyers told the Jerusalem Post. “Help us, get us out of here, you’ll see we’re right and that we’re innocent.”
But a medical examiner who examined all 12 Israeli suspects found no evidence of battery on them.
Also, police spokesman Christos Andreou said none of the suspects has filed a complaint.
The Cyprus Mail has learned that, up until Thursday evening, the suspects had not been deposed by police. The delay, it’s understood, has to do with the need to have a lawyer present as well as interpreters.
In addition, and contrary to local media reports, it’s understood that to date no Israeli lawyers have flown in to represent the suspects. The suspects are being represented by local lawyers appointed by the state.
Police said that the 19-year-old girl has been staying in Cyprus for some time, as she had initially come to holiday on the island before finding a job in Ayia Napa.
Regarding the 12 suspects, most of them were on vacation pending the start of their military service, while the minor was in Cyprus accompanied by his parents.
Police are waiting for DNA results to bring further details to light. Security footage from the hotel where both the 19-year-old and the 12 suspects were staying, as well as from neighbouring shops and buildings, are also expected.
Israeli embassy official Yossef Wurmbrand said the embassy would keep in contact with the suspects and their families until the case was closed, and said it would not be intervening in the police work.
Meanwhile, the director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs of Israel Yuval Rotem held bilateral talks in Nicosia on Thursday, though it has not been reported whether the incident was raised during the discussion.