British teen’s Cyprus rape claim trial postponed as lawyer quits

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The trial in Cyprus of a British teenager accused of falsely claiming she was gang-raped by Israeli tourists was postponed on Wednesday after her lawyer withdrew due to a disagreement.

Andreas Pittadjis asked a court in Paralimni in the island’s southeast to relieve him of his duty as the woman’s defence lawyer.

“There is a serious disagreement with the defendant on how to handle the case, so I ask for the court’s permission to withdraw,” he said.

Pittadjis did not elaborate on what those differences were when asked by reporters after the hearing, although the woman had been expected to enter a plea on Wednesday.

The case was adjourned until August 19 to allow the 19-year-old British tourist to find a new lawyer. She will remain in police custody until her next court appearance.

She faces “public mischief” charges that come with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of around 1,700 euros.

The young woman, who has not been named, was tearful after the lawyer handed her the case file and exited the Famagusta District Court.

She covered her face with the hood of her sweatshirt as she left and was put into a police vehicle.

Initially, the teenager had alleged that 12 Israelis raped her on July 17 at a hotel in the resort of Ayia Napa, a magnet for younger tourists attracted by its beaches and nightlife.

The Israelis aged 15 to 18 were released last month after the woman was arrested on suspicion of “making a false statement about an imaginary crime”, according to Cypriot police.

But the legal aid group Justice Abroad, which is assisting the teenager, claimed she did not voluntarily retract the rape allegation.

Michael Polak, a British barrister with the organisation, said in a statement she had been refused legal representation, despite requests and in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said the apparent confession was dictated to her and investigators made clear that if she signed it she could return to her hotel, but if she refused she would be arrested.

Cypriot police spokesman Christos Andreou rejected the claims as “baseless”.

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