The trial of a British teenager who sparked a complex police investigation with a claim that she was gang-raped resumed in Paralimni on Tuesday, with the defendant taking the stand.
The 19-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, faces one charge of public mischief. She is accused of making a false criminal complaint of being raped by 12 Israeli tourists at a hotel in Ayia Napa on July 17.
The Israeli men – on holiday on the island – were arrested and interrogated but later released.
The case took a twist ten days later when police said the British teen had fabricated claims and withdrawn her complaint; however, during 45 minutes of testimony on Tuesday, she insisted her retraction was extracted under duress.
The accused, who arrived in Cyprus on a working holiday on July 10, recounted what happened on the night of her retraction, explaining how police picked her up from a hotel in Ayia Napa at around 6pm. “Something felt off, it felt strange. They weren’t talking to me,” she told Judge Michalis Papathanasiou.
Wearing all black, the teen described how a “fast-paced” interrogation followed at Paralimni police station, where “Marios (Marios Christou, CID officer) said he had seen videos of me having consensual group sex… I stood up and asked: where is this coming from? It can’t be true.
“He said it was very clear there was no rape,” she said. “I was crying I didn’t understand what was going on. They kept asking me to say there wasn’t a rape”.
She then claimed interrogating officers refused to let her phone her mother, “and I said: I want a lawyer. I said that several times.”
Her lawyers – who have now touted the possibility of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights – claim her statement was signed at 2am after a gruelling eight-hour police interview, without access to a lawyer or any other support.
In her continued testimony, the teen added: “They said they would arrest me if I didn’t say I had lied. I was so scared, I didn’t think I would leave that station without signing that statement”.
She also told how, with her phone hidden under the table, she sent frantic Snapchat messages to a friend during a brief break in the interrogation. “I told my friend I was scared for my life… I knew if CID knew this, there would be repercussions,” she claimed. Copies of the Snapchat messages were handed to the gallery.
In a separate text to her mother, she typed: “ASAP. I need help”.
For his part, Sergeant Marios Christou told the court how on the night of the teens’ arrest he had been suspicious that the defendant had not been truthful, but maintained she wrote the statement voluntarily.
The accused – eyes continually fixed on Christou – followed his testimony with the help of a translator.
Christou, also revealed during 45 minutes of cross-questioning that state laboratories had found a small amount of cocaine in the accused’s urine sample, which, was taken on the night of the alleged rape.
Despite criticism, local police have stood by their investigation insisting it was handled with the “utmost seriousness and sensitivity”.
Court proceedings opened with an unsuccessful request by prosecution lawyer Adam Demosthenous to exhibit a DVD containing mobile phone footage, recorded on the night of the complaint, showing the teen engaged in sexual activity. The footage had been prepared onto a CD by Spiros Nikolaou, from the Nicosia police technology unit.
A dozen local and international reporters as well as family members were at the crowded courtroom, which was monitored by five police officers.
Earlier this month, the young woman’s lawyer, Michael Polak of Justice Abroad, said his client – who was due to be starting university – had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by the incident.
Soon after, a dozen human rights organisations urged attorney general, Costas Clerides to throw out the case.
After being charged, the teenager spent over a month at the Central Prison in Nicosia before being allowed conditional bail at the end of August.
She was required to pay €5,000 and surrender her passport.
If convicted, she could be sentenced to a prison term ranging from a month to a year.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 11am on Wednesday.