'I Believe Her' trends on Twitter after woman found guilty of lying in Cyprus gang-rape case
TORONTO -- After a 19-year-old British woman was found guilty Monday of lying about being gang-raped by a group of 12 Israelis in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, the hashtag “IBelieveHer” began trending on Twitter among those who believe she withdrew her allegations under duress from Cypriot authorities.
It’s a case that has played out across U.K. and Israeli media since she first reported her attack to police six months ago.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reported that she was having sex with her boyfriend in a hotel room at a tourist resort in July when she was pinned down and raped by others who had entered the room, according to the Associated Press.
Local reports say there was video evidence on some of the Israelis’ phones of a sexual nature, but did not go into detail on what the videos contained.
“It should be noted that none of the Israeli youths were brought to court to give evidence about what happened in the hotel room that night,” said Michael Polak, one of the lawyers for the woman, in an interview with BBC.
Polak goes on to say that the woman was made to sign a retraction statement after “seven hours of interrogation” without a lawyer or translator, and that she was exhibiting signs of PTSD.
Polak said the judge repeatedly refused to hear evidence about the rape, and instead brought charges of “public mischief” against the woman.
Reaction to the Cypriot judge’s ruling – who called the woman’s testimony “exaggerated, confused, contradictory and incoherent,”– was swift and forceful.
“Horrific treatment at the hands of police & so-called judicial system,” one Twitter user wrote. “Coerced into retracting her statement. A poorly written confession dictated to her. No proper legal representation. The judge’s refusal to hear evidence. And so rapists walk free. #IBelieveHer.”
Another tweeted “we are standing back and watching as a young woman is at risk of being jailed for the crime of reporting her gang rape. Don’t EVER ask ‘why don’t women report rape’ again #Ibelieveher.”
U.K. lawyer and legal blogger Matthew Scott said on Twitter that “none of the alleged rapists gave evidence & her conviction depends on her confession obtained in police interviews without a lawyer. This looks like a very worrying conviction.”
A petition on Change.org entitled “Drop all charges against the alleged rape victim in Cyprus” is being shared online to promote the woman’s plight.
The woman faces her sentencing in January.