A British woman who was accused of falsely claiming she was gang-raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a Cyprus holiday resort had her conviction overturned today by the country's Supreme Court.
Defence lawyers successfully argued there had been a miscarriage of justice when a district court found her guilty in January 2020 of public mischief, and handed her a suspended four-month jail term.
The woman, now aged 21 and not publicly identified, had told police in July 2019 that she had been raped by the Israelis, aged 15 to 22, in a hotel room in the Mediterranean island's party resort town of Ayia Napa.
Aged 19 at the time of her arrest, she was charged after she retracted her initial complaint, but later said she had been pressured to do so by local police in lengthy questioning without a lawyer or translator present.
The woman's family asked today that the rape case now be re-investigated for "true justice" to be served.
The woman did not attend the hearing today, but around 40 activists protested outside the court with banners saying "I believe her" and "end rape culture", and clapped when they heard the court's ruling.
"This is a watershed moment," said Michael Polak of the UK-based group Justice Abroad, that assisted the woman and her family in their legal battle.
He said the woman had "always maintained her innocence, even when doing so caused her the hardship of not being able to return home during the lengthy trial proceedings".
He added that "important fair trial provisions, which are in place to prevent miscarriages of justice, were totally disregarded in this case".
"A young and vulnerable woman was not only mistreated when she reported the rape to the police, but she was just put through a trial process that was manifestly unfair as the Supreme Court has recognised."
The British High Commission in Cyprus tweeted that it welcomed the ruling and said London had "regularly raised this case with the authorities and will continue to work with authorities in Cyprus to improve due process and support victims".
Lawyers said the woman was "shouted at and treated with contempt during the original trial".
Mr Polak said "it became clear to those watching that the defence was fighting these proceedings with one hand tied behind our back, and that a decision had been made as to guilt from the start of the trial process".
During the latest hearing, before a three-judge bench, the defence team expanded on their detailed 154-page argument to explain why the conviction was unsafe.
The woman has accused Cypriot police of having forced her to sign a retraction statement, after which the Israeli suspects were released.
Justice Abroad said she was suffering from post-traumatic stress and that her retraction, taken after she had spent almost seven hours in a police station, "should never have been admitted" into evidence.
Mr Polak said Cyprus police had also failed to download data from suspects' mobile phones, to check allegations that the alleged sexual assault had been filmed.
"We are pleased that our team has managed to secure this result against the odds, and believe that the next step for justice to be done in this case is a full review and investigation by a different police force of the rape complaint put forward by our client," said Mr Polak.
The woman's family welcomed today's court decision with "great relief".
"Whilst this decision doesn't excuse the way she was treated, it does bring with it the hope that my daughter's suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated," said a statement issued by the mother.
"Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus."
Defence lawyer Lewis Power said: "We hope that this decision will have far-reaching implications in the pursuit of justice for other victims of sexual assault.
"We commend the Cypriot Supreme Court for having the courage and wisdom to deliver this judgement."