A British woman who was convicted last month of lying to the authorities in Cyprus when she accused a dozen Israelis of raping her in a resort town before retracting her statement will not serve any time in prison, after she was given a four-month suspended sentence on Tuesday.
The woman, who said she had been pressured by the authorities to change her account, will now be allowed to return to Britain. Nonetheless, the handling of her case and the guilty verdict have outraged rights groups in her home country and in Cyprus.
Dominic Raab, the British foreign minister, had said he had “very serious concerns” about her treatment in Cyprus, telling the BBC on Sunday that, “I think she’s gone through a terrible ordeal.”
The local news media in Cyprus reported last week that President Nicos Anastasiades had planned to pardon the woman, who has not been publicly identified, if she had received a prison term, though the suspended sentence means that he will be spared from having to make such a decision.
The woman, who was 19 when she made the accusation last July, had accused the Israelis, who were ages 15 to 18, of raping her in a hotel room in Ayia Napa, in southeastern Cyprus, in July. The police arrested the young men that month but later released them after the woman retracted the accusations.
The judge, Michalis Papathanasiou, told the British woman that he was giving her a “second chance,” according to Sky News, which reported that she had left the court in tears after hugging her family and legal team.
The chief investigating officer in the case, Marios Christou, testified during her trial for public mischief that she had admitted reporting the episode because the young men “were recording her having sex” and “she felt insulted.” He also cited inconsistencies between her statement and video footage from the night in question.
The woman pleaded not guilty when her trial began in October, but she later testified that the police had pressured her into retracting her accusations, and the handling of the case by the authorities was condemned in Cyprus and Britain.
Several women’s rights groups protested outside the Foreign Office and the Cypriot Embassy in London on Monday in support of the woman. They also urged Britain’s Foreign Office to “boycott Cyprus.”
Lucy and Verity Nevitt, the founders of the Gemini Project, a British nonprofit group that works to end sexual violence, called the woman’s treatment “inhumane.” “The message from Cypriot authorities is essentially ‘if you talk, we will silence you’,” they said in an email on Monday.
The woman’s legal team argued that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They told the court during her trial that the police had pressured her to retract the accusations against the Israelis, although Mr. Christou, the investigating officer, testified that the police had not pressured her to change her stance.
The case also raised questions in Israel over consensual sex and societal pressures on young men regarding their “manliness.” Although some in the country defended the accused in this case after they were released from police custody, many were upset to see celebrations greeting them at the airport on their return home.
Lizzy Ioannidou contributed reporting.