The British teenager found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has been handed a four-month suspended jail sentence.
The 19-year-old woman hugged her family and lawyers and left court weeping, with her head in her hands, as she walked free following a hearing in a packed courtroom on Tuesday morning.
Dozens of protesters had gathered outside Famagusta District Court chanting “Cyprus justice, shame on you” and “stop blaming the victim”, amid concerns the teenager had not been given a fair trial.
The Briton was convicted of public mischief last week in a case which has sparked an international outcry and prompted an intervention from the UK government.
The teenager alleged she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party resort of Ayia Napa on 17 July.
The men she accused, all aged between 15 and 20, were arrested but later freed after she signed a statement withdrawing the claim 10 days later.
But the British woman has said she was forced the retract the allegation under pressure from Cypriot police and maintains she was gang-raped after having consensual sex with one of the group.
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.
But she is now free to return home after being sentenced to a four-month jail term, suspended for three years, by judge Michalis Papathanasiou. The offence of public mischief can carry a prison sentence of up to a year.
The judge told the teenager he was giving her a “second chance” because she had admitted she made a mistake. He also cited other reasons including her young age, immaturity, personal circumstances, and psychological condition, as well as the fact she had already spent almost month in jail following her arrest last summer.
The Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, had reportedly planned to pardon the teenager if she was sentenced to further prison time.
The Briton’s legal team is now poised to launch an appeal against her conviction and hope to fast-track proceedings in Cyprus’s supreme court, a process which can take up to four years.
The case hinged on a retraction signed by the teenager following hours of questioning alone and without legal representation.
Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, said last week he had raised concerns over the woman’s treatment with his counterpart in Cyprus.
The British government had said it was “seriously concerned” about whether the teenager received a fair trial.