A court in the town of Paralimni on the eastern coast of Cyprus released five of the 12 teenagers on Friday, three of whom immediately returned to Israel. However, now prosecutors seek three new people in connection with the alleged gang rape of a 19-year-old British tourist at the Ayia Napa resort earlier this month.
The case began last Wednesday, when the woman filed a police report against the Israeli teens, who range from ages 15 to 18. According to Cypriot media, she alleged that several men held her down and raped her.
“I saw at least 12 faces … for an hour or so, one after the other,” she said in the police report. “[T]he friends I did not know raped me, some wore a condom, and some didn’t. They hurt my whole body… one of them held me down,” she said. “After they let me go I fainted, and then I ran out of the room, met friends and they took me half-naked to the clinic.”
According to Haaretz, police found five used condoms and 12 condom wrappers in the hotel room where the rape allegedly occurred.
According to island media reports, the woman had a previous relationship with at least one of the suspects, and the men claimed the sex was consensual, offering to provide video proof on their phones. Those phones have been confiscated as evidence.
Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh, who represents three of the 12 teens, told AP that the 12 had come to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other prior. However, The Times of Israel noted that the chief investigator “suspects that they coordinated their statements before their arrest,” as the three primary suspects had “extremely similar” stories.
Yaslovitzh said the release of the five seriously affects the woman’s credibility, as she claims she saw 12 faces.
It’s unclear why police released five of the suspects, but the Times noted police had interviewed 36 witnesses and planned on talking to another 20, and that DNA evidence had been collected from the woman and the hotel room. At least one of the five released individuals provided an alibi in the form of photos taken by his girlfriend of him at the time the incident allegedly occurred.
Three of the DNA samples don’t match any of the suspects so far detained, prompting police to go looking for three more men they fear might have fled the island entirely.
The Times noted that one or two of the suspects still in custody might be offered immunity if they can point police to the new suspects, according to Israeli Channel 13.