Protesters gathered outside the Cypriot high commission before marching through London chanting “we believe her”, on the eve of the sentencing of a 19-year-old woman convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Ayia Napa.
A judge last week ruled the teenager from Derbyshire wilfully indulged in public mischief in claiming she was raped by a group of 12 Israelis over the summer, then retracting her allegations 10 days later.
She is due to be sentenced on Tuesday morning and could face up to a year in prison and a €1,700 (£1,500) fine. However, during her trial she alleged that Cypriot police forced her to sign the retraction after an eight-hour interview with no lawyer or translator present.
More than 100 protesters stood outside the mission with placards and banners calling for holidaymakers to boycott Cyprus. “The message we want to send is to the victim herself, to say you are not alone, we hear you, we see you,” said Verity Nevitt, who helped to organise the protest.
“We’re also calling out Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson for doing nothing … There has been multiple human rights violations [in this case] and the fact that it’s happened to a British citizen anywhere in the world is an outrage.”
Among those protesting in London on Monday was Ella Benami, an Israeli living in London, who said it had damaged her country’s image.
“This is another incident that can really damage the image of Israel,” Benami said. “We think [there has been] the interference of some political authorities in Israel to kind of keep this quiet.”
The teenager at the centre of the case has the support of many in Israel who believe she has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Protests were planned in solidarity in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning and several dozen women were due to fly from the city to Cyprus on Monday night to meet women’s rights activists and also the girl and her mother, Benami said.
Dorothy Muir, a former policewoman who during her career investigated sexual offences, said she had concerns about what she had heard about the woman’s treatment by Cypriot police. “Nobody should be interviewed for eight hours without a solicitor or an interpreter in a foreign country,” Muir said.
Protesters marched from the high commission, near Piccadilly, to Parliament Square, via Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, pausing briefly outside Downing Street. They ended their protest by the statue of the suffragette Millicent Fawcett.
There Nevitt read out a statement from the teenager’s lawyer before reading out details of the case, including the injuries recorded on her body, her testimony about her experience on the night, the DNA from semen found on her body, how the Israelis involved had circulated explicit sexual footage of her online, and how their relatives had sprayed champagne and chanted “the Brit is a whore” on their return to Israel after their release.
She added: “The message sent is, if you are attacked and report, don’t expect help or justice. The case won’t be properly investigated and you’ll become the accused. It also sends a message to men that you can get away with sexual assault. That you won’t even be investigated.”