By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - The mother of a British teen who claims to have been raped in Cyprus backed calls for a tourism boycott of the island nation, local media reported.
The 19-year-old claimed she was raped by 12 Israeli tourists July 17 at Ayia Napa, a holiday resort.
She subsequently retracted her accusation, later claiming she did so under pressure from Cypriot police. A Cypriot court then found her guilty of public mischief for lying and she faces a year in prison and a €1,700 ($1,900) fine when she is sentenced Jan 7.
The judge said the teen was filmed having consensual sex with an Israeli teen from a group and she then accused the group of raping her.
Lawyers representing the teen said she retracted her allegation after eight hours of interrogation by police without a lawyer present. They said they would take the case to the Cypriot Supreme Court, and were prepared to take it all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
The British Foreign Office said: “The UK is seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case and we will be raising the issue with the Cypriot authorities.”
When the Israeli teens returned home, they were welcomed as heroes. The Times of Israel reported protesters popped champagne bottles and chanted “the Brit is a whore.”
The Daily Mail reported some of the accused had ties to powerful figures in Israel. The father of one in the group is an advisor to the mayor of Jerusalem, and another has parents who are close friends with an Israeli government minister.
The case has been widely reported in U.K. media, leading to a campaign to boycott tourism in Cyprus under the hashtag #BoycottCyprus. The campaign has been backed by the teen’s mother.
“The place isn’t safe. It is absolutely not safe. And if you go and report something that’s happened to you, you’re either laughed at, as far as I can tell, or, in the worst case, something like what’s happened to my daughter may happen,” she told the BBC.
Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios told the Guardian: “We are not happy with the extent of publicity and the reaction, which has been exaggerated. We would have wished that these [boycott] calls hadn’t happened.
“As a government we cannot, under any circumstances, intervene in a pending case before the court,” he added. “What would happen if a Cypriot was brought before a court in the U.K.? Would the government intervene and would the Cypriots campaign to boycott England?”
Cyprus is a popular tourist destination and tourism fuels a large part of its economy. British tourists comprise an important part of tourists and Ayia Napia is particularly popular with young British teens who have finished pre-university exams.
According to the Independent, more than 1.3 million British tourists visited the island in 2019 and in August, the peak month, one third of visitors were British.