A Cypriot court convicted a man who paid to have sex with a human trafficking victim about two years ago in Nicosia in a first ruling of its kind on Friday.

The man was sentenced to three years in jail for supporting human trafficking by purchasing sexual services as a ‘customer’ while he was also found guilty of rape and received a concurrent sentence of two and a half years.

The legal service said this was a “significant” conviction, as this was the first time a person was sentenced for buying sexual services from a victim of trafficking.

The Nicosia criminal court also sentenced two more defendants in the same human trafficking case.

In another first, the judge convicted the first person for sex trafficking of a minor.

The person was found guilty of all the charges he faced related to sexual exploitation of a child and adult, withholding personal documents, financial violence, rape, attempted rape and pimping. The individual was sentenced to six and five years in jail and received other shorter prison sentences.

The other defendant was sentenced to four months in jail for threatening behaviour.

The case was reported to the police on November 11, 2021 by an 18-year-old woman who was identified as a victim of human trafficking.

Her sexual exploitation started when she was still a minor. One of the defendants had moved her to a different district and deprived her of basic necessities to force her in prostitution. The legal service said that the trafficking victim initially provided consensual market sex services, but later these services became non-consensual.

“It was clear from the complainant that she did not consent to unprotected vaginal intercourse,” the announcement said.

On behalf of the Attorney General of the Republic, the case was handled by Chrystia Kytheotou, Senior Attorney of the Republic, the Legal Service added.

Due to the seriousness of the offences the teenager was accommodated in a shelter.

Two of the three convicted men were initially detained but were later released, police said in their statement.

The case was investigated by the office for combating human trafficking and the Nicosia CID.

The conviction comes as the US state department trafficking in persons report showed last month that Cyprus met the minimum standards but highlighted a decrease in the number of traffickers convicted and defendants prosecuted. Furthermore, the Social Welfare Services have been criticised in the report for its delayed response to referrals of potential victims and for failing to refer all potential victims to the police for official identification procedures.

Nevertheless, Cyprus remained on Tier 1, the highest rating, where it was upgraded last year, with the report saying the island demonstrated serious and sustained efforts in combatting human trafficking, despite challenges.