A 22-year-old Dublin woman's package holiday in Cyprus has ended with her being sent to prison for four months for making a false complaint to police that she was raped by three Irish soldiers.
Ms Annette Mangan, from Castle Park, Tallaght, pleaded guilty to the charge in court yesterday and was taken to Nicosia Central Prison.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the honorary Irish consul in Cyprus, Mr Stephanous Stephanou, was trying to arrange for Ms Mangan's sister to visit her today.
Ms Mangan, who works in a computer plant in Tallaght, had travelled to the holiday resort of Ayia Napa with her sister and two friends on a package trip with Falcon Holidays. It is believed the travel agent's parent company, First Choice, arranged a solicitor to represent Ms Mangan in court.
The charge arose after local police found discrepancies in her claim that three soldiers raped her in an apartment.
The soldiers, members of the 81st Infantry Battalion serving with Unifil in Lebanon, were on holiday in Cyprus. One was released almost immediately after being detained but the other two were held for eight hours in a cell before Ms Mangan confessed she had lied.
Her father, Mr Albert Mangan, said last night he hoped she would not have to serve the full sentence. However, he said: "I understand, when they say four months, they mean it."
Local sources, however, said Ms Mangan may be released after serving 50 days or less.
Mr Mangan said his daughter was "quiet and does get panicky. She doesn't like being on her own".
The soldiers were staying at the same apartment as another man whom Ms Mangan had met the night before she reported the alleged rape.
Police said they found contradictions in the complaint and Ms Mangan later admitted she made up the story because one of the men staying in the apartment photographed her while she slept nude.
At the hearing at Famagusta District Court in Nicosia, her lawyer said the false allegation was her way of taking revenge because she "felt demeaned" and that "she had been raped morally, if not bodily".
Judge Antonis Liatsos said he had dealt with a number of cases recently of women tourists making false rape allegations.
He said the three soldiers were rightfully upset over their arrest and overnight detention. The authorities also had to go to the trouble and expense of preparing a case.
"Innocent people were arrested and held in custody, and grievances on their detention are truly justified. . .the penalty must be a deterrent," he said
Ayia Napa is a very popular resort with Irish tourists. Budget Travel, which organises package holidays to the resort, estimates that 15,000 Irish people travel to Cyprus each year, 60 per cent of whom go to Ayia Napa.
"It's lively enough, with a good night-life and plenty of late-night restaurants, bars and cafes," said Mr Derek Crookes, operations manager at Budget Travel. Because of its distance from Ireland - over five hours by air - Ayia Napa "tends to attract a different type of client, slightly older than the 18-22 group".
Mr Sean O'Donoghue, of Apex Travel, on Dame Street, Dublin, said Ayia Napa was particularly popular with Irish soldiers from the Lebanon and their families. "It's not a wild resort. It's known as a nice quiet place; a lot of couples go on their holidays there."
Ayia Napa has attracted a lot of negative publicity in recent years. In March 1996, three British soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and killing a young Danish tour guide there.
Last weekend, five British soldiers were charged with attacking a group of tourists in Ayia Napa. The resort has now been placed out of bounds for British soldiers.