The hashtag #IBelieveHer has been trending across the world after a 19-year-old British woman was handed a suspended jail sentence in Cyprus.
The teenager was convicted of falsifying rape allegations against a group of Israeli men in Cyprus. The British teenager, who remains unnamed, had pled not guilty to the charge of “public mischief”.
What supposedly happened?
The 19-year-old woman claims she was gang-raped by a group of Israeli men at a hotel in the Cypriot party resort Ayia Napa in July. After being questioned for 8 hours by male police officers without a lawyer, she claims she was coerced into signing a confession withdrawing the complaint. The Cypriot authorities strongly deny this and her alleged assailants denied any allegation of assault or rape.
How has she been punished?
The young woman missed out on her place at university after being jailed for four and a half weeks in a prison in the capital Nicosia. This prison was criticised for overcrowding and degrading treatment. After being found guilty of “public mischief” – which carries a prison sentence of up to a year – the judge has given her a “second chance” by suspending the jail sentence.
Why has this case become so controversial?
Throughout the trial, the media has been accused of vilifying the British teenager. Christina Kaili, a project coordinator at the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, toldThe Independent’s Maya Oppenheim: “The media have been aggressive in exposing and re-victimising a woman that has been in a particularly vulnerable position.”
The teenager still maintains that she was raped, and during the trial, the Cypriot court heard that the group of Israeli men were allegedly “aggressively” planning to have sex with the woman. The men were heard plotting in a “very bad way” to “do orgies” with the teenager.
Her alleged assailants were allowed to return home, while she was detained in Cyprus with her travel documents confiscated.
The alleged assailants were reunited with their families in Israel’s Ben Gurion airport and were filmed chanting “the Brit is a whore”, according to The Times of Israel.
The trail follows the critically acclaimed Netflix series Unbelievable, which followed the story of a girl who was coerced into retracting a genuine rape allegation by male police officers. Many people see this as another high-profile example of a young woman being exploited by a patriarchal justice system and vilified for speaking out.
What happens now?
After being handed a suspended jail sentence, it is likely that the young woman will now return to the UK. Prior to sentencing, Boris Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have faced calls to intervene in the case to bring her home.
Emotions surrounding the case are still running high. Following the sentencing, people on social media were calling for a boycott of Cyprus over what they consider to be the poor treatment of a traumatised and vulnerable woman.
The young Brit has reportedly expressed that she wants to “clear her name”, while the men she accuses of raping her continue to deny her allegations.
H/T: Independent / Additional reporting by Press Association