LOOK: Suspended sentence for UK woman convicted of making false gang-rape claim
Paralimni, Cyprus - A Cyprus court on Tuesday handed a four-month suspended sentence to a 19-year-old British woman who was found guilty of public mischief for making up claims that she was raped by up to a dozen Israelis.
The woman continues to insist that she was raped, and that she was coerced into withdrawing her statement. Her lawyers say she will appeal.
Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said although the public mischief charge was a serious offense, he decided to give the woman a second chance because she admitted through her lawyers during mitigation that she made a mistake in making the false rape claim.
He also cited other reasons, including her young age, immaturity, clean criminal record, personal circumstances, psychological condition and the fact that she had already spent almost month in detention during the six months her trial lasted.
The judge said he also took into account that the huge publicity that her case has received in U.K. and Israeli media had weighed against the woman, who had to put her academic career on hold as she was due to start university in September.
Judge Papathanasiou also fined the woman 140 euros ($156) and told her defense lawyers that the sentence could be activated if she commits another serious offense within three years.
Under Cyprus law, public mischief carries a maximum one-year prison term and a 1,700 euro ($2000) fine.
The woman's mother told reporters that she was “very relieved to be going home” after months of legal proceedings. Despite the suspended sentence, she said defense lawyers would appeal the conviction so that it's expunged from her permanent record.
She said she was “inspired and motivated" by the public support her daughter received from the U.K., Israel and Cyprus.
The case drew widespread interest in the U.K. and Israel after initial reports that the woman was the victim of a gang rape evolved into her being charged with making up claims of rape.
The woman, who wasn't identified, insisted that she was raped in a hotel room at a coastal resort town on July 17 and that she was forced to sign the retraction 10 days later while under police questioning.
Court Judge Papathanasiou said the defendant didn't tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “evasive” statements in her testimony.
The judge said the woman had admitted to investigators that she made up the claims because she was “ashamed" after finding out that some of the Israelis had videoed her having consensual sex with her Israeli boyfriend on their mobile phones.
While the judge was reading his sentence, a noisy group of demonstrators who showed up to support the woman chanted slogans outside the court house including, “Cyprus justice, shame on you” and “Stop blaming the victim.”