The hearing for the case of a 19-year-old British woman who was detained on charges of public mischief after withdrawing a gang rape claim was postponed on Monday until August 27.
The 19-year-old, who secured new legal representation to fight her case which her defence claims involves significant police mishandling, will remain in custody pending the court date later in the month.
The Famagusta court on Monday accepted the request of the defence for more time to study the case file in detail, and recognised that time is also needed so that the legal service can approve the involvement of a UK lawyer in the 19-year-old’s legal representation.
The defence team of the woman will be spearheaded by Cyprus lawyers Nicoletta Charalambidou and Ritsa Pekri, as well as the British barrister Lewis Power QC. The British group Justice Abroad are also assisting the 19-year-old and her family with the case, an announcement by the group on Monday said.
The defence lawyers are joining forces in their attempt to prove substantial police mishandling of the case which shook Ayia Napa last month when the 19-year-old claimed she had been raped. Days later she recanted, before then saying she had withdrawn the rape claim only under duress.
Answers will be sought as to what prompted the 19-year-old to withdraw her rape claim, which led to her arrest on grounds of public mischief, and why all the 12 Israeli teens that were initially arrested were released and sent back home so quickly.
“The confession is very worrying in this case given that the teenager was turned from a victim to a suspect of a criminal offence through flawed procedures which did not respect and properly safeguard her rights, in either capacity, in accordance with the law,” Charalambidou said according to the Justice Abroad announcement.
In an announcement by the group earlier in the month, Justice Abroad states that according to the 19-year-old and her family, her rape claim was not voluntarily recanted.
Rather, the 19-year-old was threatened by a police officer “to write a confession and that if she did not do so he would arrest her friends in Cyprus for conspiracy, naming the friends he would arrest if she refused,” Justice Abroad claims.
In addition to also being refused a lawyer as was her right under the Cypriot Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights, the woman was also not told that she could leave the police station nor given the option of leaving at any point, the group adds.
Justice Abroad also claimed the 19-year-old was forced to sign a confession dictated by the police officers who threatened that she would be arrested if she did not sign the confession but that she would be allowed to return to her hotel if the confession was signed.
Her previous lawyer, Andreas Pittadjis, resigned in early August citing serious disagreement with his client and her family about how to handle the case after she withdrew her initial claim.
Donations continue to pour in to a crowdfunding campaign to cover the legal fees of the 19-year-old, with contributions reaching £22,500 by Monday. Following the legal battle, any excess funds will be allocated to women’s rights and legal charities, the crowdfunding text states.