In December 2019, a British woman was put on trial for lying to the authorities in Cyprus after retracting a statement that she was raped by multiple men in Ayia Napa in July of that year. She was stuck in Cyprus for five months before being allowed to come home. It was a court case that dominated headlines both in Cyprus and the UK but what happened to those involved in the Cyprus rape case? In new ITV doc Believe Me Viewers will hear from the alleged victim for the first time. The woman (known only as Emily in the film), along with her mum, friends, and her defence lawyer all speak in the documentary, which aims to explore what really happened and whether a miscarriage of justice took place.
ITV News anchor Julie Etchingham leads the film, speaking to Emily and looking over footage from the case to build a wider picture of what happened. The creators of Believe Me have had access to her friends' text messages from the time, new footage from the case, and contributions from expert lawyers.
According to the New York Times, when Emily was standing trial she said that she was having a romantic relationship with one of the men she accused of rape. Emily alleged that while she and her partner were having sex other men entered the room and assaulted her and some of them filmed what was going on on their phones. After reporting the incident to the police, 12 men between the ages of 15 and 22 were arrested.
However, just over a week after she reported the event Emily was questioned again by the police. Per the New York Times, she told the court she was held at a police station for several hours without being permitted to call her mother or have a lawyer present. During the questioning, she claims she was pressured into signing a statement retracting her rape allegation. She was later charged with “giving a false statement over an imaginary offense” and convicted at trial. All 12 men accused of raping her were released without charge.
In an interview with Etchingham for the programme, Emily said: “there was no other way out of that police station other than [to] sign that retraction statement. I thought, 'As soon as I am outside this volatile environment I can sort this out.' When you’re in that situation, the only sensible thing to do is to conform."
This is the first time Emily, who is a 19 year old student, is speaking out about the trial but it’ll also be the first time that her friends, who found her shortly after the alleged rape, will be able to tell their story. The Guardian said former DCI David Gee told the programme that if the alleged events had occurred in the UK, there appeared to be enough evidence to charge at least one man with rape.
While Emily, her mum, and lawyer have said they’ll be appealing her sentence there’s no reports that the men she accused of rape will be standing trial.
Emily told Etchingham that local police had forced her to retract her rape claim and remains adamant that she’s telling the truth. The BBC said that during her sentencing in Jan. 2020, judge Michalis Papathanasiou told her he was giving her a "second chance" by suspending her sentence allowing her to fly back to the UK. He said her "psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends, and academic studies this year", had led him to the decision.
The Cyprus police have said their investigation was handled with professionalism, and they deny improper conduct. However, her defence lawyer at trial, Nicoletta Charalambidou told ITV there’s a culture on the island of not believing women's claims of rape. She said, "I do not understand why it’s easier to believe that a woman was not raped, rather than believing she was raped. Because if you wanted to believe her… All the evidence was there to conclude that there was rape." The legal organisation Justice Abroad also told the BBC the conviction "breaches" Emily's rights.
You can watch Believe Me- The Cyprus Rape Case on April 14 at 10:45 p.m. on ITV.