A British woman convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus is said to be “anxious but upbeat” ahead of her appeal at the country’s Supreme Court.
The then 19-year-old, from Derby, was handed a suspended four-month jail term last year by a judge who found her guilty of public mischief following a trial.
She told police she was attacked by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party town of Ayia Napa on July 17 2019 but was charged after signing a retraction statement 10 days later.
Now a 21-year-old university student, the woman has maintained she was pressured by officers to withdraw the rape allegation and has vowed to clear her name, having flown home from the holiday island hours after being sentenced.
Her team of English and Cypriot lawyers are taking the appeal to the Supreme Court, in Cyprus capital Nicosia, on Thursday arguing the conviction is unsafe and should be set aside.
The woman is not attending the hearing in front of a panel of three judges, including the English-born president Persefoni Panayi.
Her English barrister Lewis Power QC said: “She’s bearing up really well. She is getting on with her life at university.
“She is very anxious about the result but she is fairly upbeat and determined that this won’t ruin her life.
“We spoke to her yesterday and her mother. They are back in the UK watching from afar.”
Mr Power added: “This is the biggest case here in the last decade beyond a shadow of a doubt and the world is watching.
“It is so important for young women across the world. This case is a beacon.”
The woman’s lawyers have submitted a written document of around 150 pages, which they will expand on in oral arguments based on transcripts from the trial.
The legal team will argue the retraction statement, which formed the basis of the prosecution case, should never have been admitted into evidence because it was made by a vulnerable teenager who had spent almost seven hours in a police station without a lawyer.
The decision is expected to take between three and six months, although the lawyers hope it could come sooner.
Mr Power said: “The young woman’s story has reverberated around the world since it hit the headlines in 2019.
“It has been both shocking and distressing and has for her been deeply harrowing, humiliating and personally intrusive.
“Yet she has risen above this with grit and determination and has courageously resolved to continue to fight this case to the end, when she believes that ultimately justice will be done.
“We also believe that ultimately justice will be achieved but through a careful scrutiny of both the evidence and adherence to the rule of law.
“Today though, we hope, the Supreme Court of Cyprus, this girl can free herself from the shackles of an unjust conviction, which has tarnished her young life.”
If the appeal fails, the lawyers plan to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which the woman’s lawyers said found against Cyprus after a teenager was brought into a police station in Limassol and separated from his father before confessing to murder without the presence of a lawyer.
They will also argue trial Judge Michalis Papathanasiou failed to consider all the elements of the offence of public mischief before finding her guilty, ignored defence expert evidence and failed to consider police failures in investigating the rape allegations.
The 12 Israeli young men and boys, aged between 15 and 20 at the time, arrested over the incident denied any wrongdoing, were freed and returned home.
The Law Office of Cyprus did not wish to comment on the case ahead of the hearing.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the court building, banging drums, chanting and clapping their hands.
One banner read “End rape culture” and another, “I believe her”.
Christina Kaili, from the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, said: “The Cyprus justice system must comply with international conventions and make sure that victims have access to justice, protection and to feel that they are believed.”
Another protester, who gave her name as Sara, said: “The last few years, we have seen a lot of injustice to women, either for rape or also murder and we haven’t seen any justice.
“We are here for women.
“It is part of a wider problem because of the sexist behaviour we have here in Cyprus.
“We don’t expect a lot but maybe it will make more people aware of what’s going on.
“We don’t expect anything from the government today but we are here to send a message.”