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Cyprus trial of Brit accused of making up rape claim starts

PARALIMNI, Cyprus (AP) — The trial of a 19 year-old British woman accused of making up a claim she was raped by a dozen Israelis in a hotel room in Cyprus began Wednesday with defense lawyers suggesting her alleged assailants had planned to commit the crime.

The defendant, accompanied by her mother, covered her face with a sweater as she arrived at the courthouse on the east Mediterranean island nation that’s a popular summer holiday destination for millions of foreigners.

She’s fighting a public mischief charge in a case that has triggered widespread interest in both the U.K. and Israel after what was reported as a shocking gang rape turned out to be what Cypriot authorities said were false allegations that the woman voluntarily retracted.

Defense lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou told the court that some text messages exchanged between the Israeli youth showed them bragging in a “bad and aggressive way” about their plans to have sex with the woman, who hasn’t been named in line with local reporting restrictions.

Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad which is assisting in the woman’s legal defense, said investigators failed to provide defense lawyers with all text messages from 11 mobile phones seized during the Israelis’ detention that could shed further light on their intentions. Polak said the defense obtained material from only five of the 11 seized phones.

“We say a rape did occur and there's been an investigation which falls way below any proper standards of investigation,” Polak told reporters. Cyprus police said the woman retracted her July 17 rape allegations ten days later after investigators found what they said were inconsistencies in her statements. All 12 Israelis returned home shortly after their release and their defense lawyers said they would sue the woman for damages.

Defense lawyers also contend that the woman’s retraction was made under duress. Cypriot authorities strongly deny this, saying the woman volunteered her statement. Under the public mischief charge, the defendant, who wept at one point during the hearing, faces a maximum year in prison and a 1,700-euro ($1,853) fine.

Judge Nicholas Papathanasiou adjourned the trial until Oct. 15 to give defense lawyers the opportunity to examine a police technician’s report on material gathered from the Israelis’ mobile phones. The judge denied a defense request to allow the defendant to return to the U.K. until her next court appearance, but eased her bail conditions so she can report to a Nicosia police station once weekly instead of three times.

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