A British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus can return home after a judge said he was giving her a “second chance” and suspended her prison sentence.
The 19-year-old woman hugged her family and legal team and left court weeping, with her head in her hands, after she was sentenced for public mischief.
The teenager’s mother shouted “she’s coming home” to supporters outside Famagusta District Court, telling reporters she feels “relieved”.
Her lawyer Lewis Power QC said she will be returning home later on Tuesday but said her legal team would be challenging her conviction and were prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The teenager, from Derbyshire, has been stuck on the island after claiming she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party town of Ayia Napa on July 17.
She was charged and spent about a month in prison before being granted bail in August.
The dozen young men and boys, aged between 15 and 20 arrested over the incident were freed after she signed a retraction statement 10 days later.
But she maintains she was raped after having consensual sex with one of the Israelis and forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police following hours of questioning alone and without legal representation.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he has raised concerns over her treatment with the Cypriot authorities, after the teenager’s conviction provoked outrage in Cyprus and the UK.
And her family had raised fears she would suffer permanent damage to her mental health if she was sent to prison, having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder .
Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told the court he would not be jailing her, despite insisting that all the evidence suggested she was guilty.
He told the packed courtroom: “I admit, I have been troubled over this.
“All the evidence shows that she had lied and prevented the police from doing other serious jobs.
“Twelve people were arrested and seven of them were there for at least 10 days. That was also a serious offence.
“Her psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends and academic studies this year, this has led me to decide to give her a second chance and suspend the sentence for three years.”
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the court, including a group of women who had travelled from Israel.
Holding placards reading “we believe you” and “don’t be afraid”, they chanted “Cyprus justice, shame on you”, “stop blaming the victim” and “you are not alone”.
Addressing applauding supporters after the hearing, the teenager’s mother said: “I just want to thank each and every one of you for turning up today, having belief, having faith and making sure we get justice.
“On behalf of the family, I would like to say we are very relieved at the sentence that has been passed down today.
“I would also like to say thank you for all the support we have received throughout the globe.”
Mr Power QC said: “Whilst we welcome the fact that the sentence imposed today allows her to go home, we strongly contest the conviction and the fight for her innocence will go on regardless.
“We will be appealing the conviction and will take this case to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and are prepared to fight this case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
“We say and will maintain that this young girl was stripped both of her dignity and her basic human rights.”