Two men in Cyprus accused of pimping and rape under a new trafficking law have been ordered to remain in pretrial detention after the attorney general appealed the release of all three defendants in the country’s first ever case, where paying for sex could land someone in prison.
Three adult males from Romania, who were arrested after a young female accused them of rape and sexual exploitation, were ordered by a district court in Nicosia to be released until their trial set to begin on 17 January 2022.
But the attorney general quickly instructed state prosecutors to file an appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing the lower court had wrongly evaluated the possibility of their fleeing from justice and further failed to take into account the risk of witness tampering.
Young woman and mother acquainted with defendants
The accuser, who was wrongly identified as Greek Cypriot in previous local media reports, was said to be an 18-year-old Romanian national, according to court documents, which also revealed that the young woman and her mother were all acquainted with the three defendants.
Reports said the young woman gave three separate statements to police between mid-November and early December, with a female social worker saying the accuser had confided in her back in early November that she was being threatened by the three males with whom she had encounters in Nicosia.
The young woman was said to have been reluctant to come forward with accusations but in her complaint filed with police on December 5, she told investigators she saw two of the suspects from a distance as she was walking with other females and a safe house escorting officer in Nicosia, adding the two were inside a vehicle and one of them got out but did not see her as she went to hide behind a residential building.
A female social worker said the accuser had confided in her back in early November that she was being threatened by the three males with whom she had encounters in Nicosia
But according to court documents, one of the suspects told her on the night of December 4 that he was in his car waiting for her outside her building, while since the day she went to a safe house her alleged pimp and her alleged rapist had been calling her to ask where she had been.
In one case, the young woman said one of the suspects sent her a threatening message on December 3.
Details in the case suggest one of suspects is being accused of pushing the young woman into prostitution, while she has also accused him of grabbing her by the throat and threatened to kill her.
Another suspect is being accused of rape in two separate instances as well as attempting to rape her and threatening to harm her on a different day.
The third suspect, whose release on bail was not overruled by the Supreme Court, is being accused of buying sexual services from the young woman.
While prostitution is not illegal in the Republic of Cyprus, a new law criminalizes the solicitation of sexual services where customers buying sex cannot plead ignorance in cases where the sex worker is a recognized victim, has been trafficked, or is under the control of a pimp.
But the two other suspects have been ordered to remain in custody by the Supreme Court, which said the lower court failed to consider the possibility of witness tampering after prosecutors said the defendants and the accuser with her mother were all acquaintances.
The Supreme Court also found that the district court failed to assess the risk of their fleeing from justice.
Previously a district judge had found that the defendant accused of buying sexual services was not a flight risk, saying the man had been living with his family and working in Cyprus since 2010. He also had children attending Greek Cypriot schools while his parents in Romania were deceased.
But state prosecutors convinced the bench during their appeal that there was witness testimony suggesting the two other suspects could attempt to intimidate witnesses if released.