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Cyprus' top lawyer says rape case trial must run its course

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' attorney general said Tuesday he couldn't suspend the trial of a 19 year-old British woman found guilty of lying about being gang raped by as many as dozen Israelis because she had leveled “grave accusations” against police investigators that had to be adjudicated in court.

Costas Clerides said the woman's allegation that police coerced her into retracting her rape claim “could not have been left to linger” so he could not move to suspend the trial. Clerides also said the woman's insistence that she didn't get a fair trial is “essentially a legal-constitutional matter" that a courtof law must rule on.

“Any intervention on the part of the attorney general, either for reasons of public interest or any other reasons, would have constituted nothing more than an obstacle to ascertaining the true facts of the case, as well as interference in the judiciary's work," Clerides said in a statement.

The woman, who hasn't been named was found guilty on Monday on a charge of public mischief and is due to be sentenced Jan. 7. The charge carries a maximum of a year in prison and a fine of 1,700 euros ($1, 907).

She insists that she was raped in a hotel room at a coastal resort town on July 17 and that she was forced to sign the retraction 10 days later while under police questioning. Her lawyers said they would appeal the decision, citing the judge's refusal to consider evidence that she had been raped.

Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said the defendant didn't tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “evasive” statements in her testimony. The judge said the woman had admitted to investigators that she made up the claims because she was “ashamed" after finding out that some of the Israelis had videoed her having consensual sex with her Israeli boyfriend on their mobile phones.

During the trial, defense lawyers had called the police investigation deficient and improper, with detectives making major lapses and omissions in their work while having a mistaken perception of the true facts surrounding their client's claim.

Clerides issued the statement following revelations that two former attorneys general and others had sent him a written appeal last month to suspend the case so as not to damage Cyprus' image abroad. The British government on Monday cast doubt over whether the teenager received a fair trial and said that it would raise the issue with Cypriot authorities.

Cyprus' government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said the government doesn't intervene or comment on pending court cases, saying it has “full confidence in the justice system and the courts," which should be left unfettered to implement the law and deliver justice.

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