How a British teenager’s summer holiday in Cyprus turned into rape case nightmare

It was intended to be a sun-soaked working holiday, a rite of passage between finishing school and starting university. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.

When a British teenager arrived in the hedonistic party town of Ayia Napa in Cyprus in early July, her plan was to get a job, have fun and – in her own words – do some “growing up”.

Hoping to find work in a bar or handing out flyers for the resort’s raucous nightclubs, the 18-year-old found accommodation at the two-star Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel in the heart of Ayia Napa.

It was arranged through a company called Summer Takeover, which promises “heavy nights” and “madness” for youngsters who sign up.

The low-rise hotel, which packs in hundreds…

Who was Qassim Soleimani? The shadowy Iranian general who undermined Washington for decades

His face was plastered on billboards across Iran and he was considered one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East.

Qassim Soleimani, killed on Friday morning by a US airstrike on his car at Baghdad airport, was a shadowy character about whom not much is known – except his astonishing influence.

The mastermind of Iran’s recent campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Soleimani was the leader of the republic’s elite Quds force, a black-ops squadron whose objectives and tactics have long infuriated and compromised American policy in the region.

Charming, quiet and softly-spoken, he has been compared to Keyser Soze and the Scarlet Pimpernel. In 2015, The Wall Street Journal compared him to…

How a summer holiday in Cyprus turned into nightmare for British teenager in gang rape case

It was intended to be a sun-soaked working holiday, a rite of passage between finishing school and starting university. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.

When a British teenager arrived in the hedonistic party town of Ayia Napa in Cyprus in early July, her plan was to get a job, have fun and – in her own words – do some “growing up”.

Hoping to find work in a bar or handing out flyers for the resort’s raucous nightclubs, the 18-year-old found accommodation at the two-star Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel in the heart of Ayia Napa.

It was arranged through a company called Summer Takeover, which promises “heavy nights” and “madness” for youngsters who sign up.

The low-rise hotel, which packs in hundreds…

Swiss embassy employee in Sri Lanka arrested after claiming she was abducted, sexually assaulted and interrogated 

Sri Lankan police arrested a local Swiss embassy employee after she claimed she was abducted by government officials, interrogated and sexually assaulted before being released. 

Calling her claims “fabricated”, authorities arrested her on Monday evening on grounds of “stoking anti-government sentiments and fabricating evidence to be used in a court proceedings.” 

The alleged victim, who works at the embassy’s visa department, claimed she was abducted by CID officials in a white van on November 25, and held for hours, while her abductors sexually abused her and tried to force her to disclose embassy-related information. 

According to the victim, her abductors particularly wanted information about a senior police official, Nishantha Silva, who fled the country seeking asylum in Switzerland soon after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected president last month. 

Mr Silva was heading an investigation on the current president on alleged charges of murder, abduction and torture of journalists and civilians who spoke against the government during his time as defence secretary for ten years under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency, until 2015.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected in November Credit: HARISH TYAGI/EPA-EFE/REX

The government has now ordered airport authorities to block police officers seeking to leave the country without permission.  The president’s media unit on Tuesday called the abduction a “total fabrication.” 

Mr Rajapaksa was quoted in a statement as saying: “It is very well established by now that the alleged abduction is a total fabrication. Irrefutable evidence such as Uber reports, telephone conversations and CCTV footages point to this fact. 

"The Embassy official must have been compelled by some interested parties to bring myself and my government into disrepute. It is not clear why the alleged victims acted in such a manner.” 

The Criminal Investigations Department said that the events and timeline presented by the Swiss embassy on the abduction did not correspond with the actual movements of the alleged victim on the date of the purported abduction. 

The embassy employee has been charged with 'disaffection on the government and fabricating false evidence' Credit: CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/REX

“Witness interviews and technical evidence including Uber records, CCTV footages, telephone records and GPS data don’t match,” said foreign affairs minister Dinesh Gunawardena. 

The alleged abduction comes just nine days after the country voted in Mr Rajapaksa, who faces several international war crimes and human rights charges for allegedly ordering abductions, rape and extra-judicial killings in his tenure as defence secretary during the country’s war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists that ended in 2009. 

“White van” abductions were a hallmark of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime. The new president has also previously been accused of white van abductions, where critics of his brother were interrogated, tortured and if lucky, released. 

Some prominent journalists including political cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared and are believed to be dead after being abducted in white vans during Mahinda’s rule. 

Sri Lanka's new president and scourge of the Tamil Tigers Gotabaya Rajapaksa being sworn in last month  Credit:  LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images

Two men who claimed to be white van drivers accused the newly elected president of ordering the white van abductions at a press conference just before the presidential elections last month, were also arrested this week.

One of the alleged former white van squad driver claimed they abducted, tortured and murdered their victims before feeding them to crocodiles. Mr Rajapaksa has denied all allegations. 

The Swiss embassy called the alleged abduction of their employee “grave and unacceptable."

On Tuesday the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) criticised the lack of due process in the case. 

The FDFA in a statement said it is “concerned about this development and calls on the Sri Lankan judicial authorities to ensure better protection of its employee’s personal rights in any further proceedings and compliance with national law and international standards.” ends

Pakistan court sentences former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to death for treason

A Pakistan court Tuesday sentenced former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in absentia to death for treason, state media reported, an unprecedented move in a country where the armed forces are often considered immune from prosecution.

"Special Court Islamabad has awarded death sentence to former President Pervez Musharraf in a high treason case," Radio Pakistan tweeted.

The case centres around Musharraf’s decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule in 2007, according to his lawyer Akhtar Shah.

The controversial move ultimately sparked protests against Musharraf, leading to his resignation in the face of impeachment proceedings.

Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile ever since a travel ban was lifted in 2016 that allowed him to seek medical treatment abroad.

The emergency rule in 2007 sparked riots  Credit: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

The 76-year-old has since spent most of his time between Dubai and London.

"Musharraf wanted to record his statement and was ready to visit Pakistan but he wanted foolproof security which was not provided," lawyer Shah said.

"He is still in Dubai and sick."

Musharraf, who was born in India’s capital New Delhi but moved with his family to Pakistan at partition, took power after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.

A cigar-smoking, whisky-drinking moderate, the general became a key US ally in the "war on terror" and escaped at least three Al-Qaeda assassination attempts during his nine years in office.

His rule faced no serious challenges until he tried to sack the chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of a state of emergency.

After the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the national mood soured further and he was left isolated by the crushing losses suffered by his allies in February 2008 elections.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 Credit: AP Photo/M.Zia

Following the court’s decision Tuesday, Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted: "Democracy is the best revenge".

Musharraf finally in resigned in August 2008 the face of impeachment proceedings by the new governing coalition and went into exile.

He returned in 2013 in an attempt to contest elections but was barred from taking part in the polls and from leaving the country while facing a barrage of legal cases.

Tuesday’s ruling is the latest court decision to target Musharraf.

In 2017, a Pakistani court pronounced Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial of Bhutto – the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country.

The anti-terrorism court has branded Musharraf an absconder and ordered the confiscation of his property.

Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied the allegation.

Suspected killer of British businessman arrested in Argentina

A man sought by police in Argentina on suspicion of killing a British businessman outside a five star hotel has been arrested.

Angel Eduardo Lozano Azuaje, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, was intercepted by officers 1,000 miles north of Buenos Aires, on a bus heading towards Bolivia.

Police sources told Clarin newspaper that the suspect was captured after his girlfriend was interviewed by officials and reportedly provided key information on his whereabouts. 

After she was interviewed on Sunday, officers were able to locate the northbound bus on which he was travelling.

Police suspect that Lozano was one of the men filmed getting out of a grey Chevrolet outside the Fauna hotel, where Mr Gibbard was killed and his stepson Stefan Zone was injured.

Lozano and another man were arrested 1000 miles north of Buenos Aires Credit: La Nacion

Lozano had recently entered the country via Argentina’s northern border. He will be brought to Buenos Aires this morning. 

Police are still hunting more suspects, including the gang’s ‘marker’ – the individual tasked with observing tourists at Ezeiza airport, and choosing the victims of subsequent thefts.

Four suspects are already in custody, although it is understood that none of them were directly involved in the attack on Saturday.

One is thought to be the gang leader, who organised the logistics behind the operation, including arranging the cars and motorbikes.

Yesterday, it emerged that the gang held welcome signs in the airport arrivals hall as cover to spot wealthy tourists.

Property magnate Matthew Gibbard and his family arrived at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning, and were identified as targets because of their “high-end watches”, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Security in Argentina.

CCTV shows that they were followed to their five star hotel across town, where Mr Gibbard, 50, and his stepson Stefan Zone, 28 were held up and shot while trying to fight off their attackers.

Yesterday, Tom Hartley, a friend of Mr Gibbard’s described how the businessman enjoyed fast cars and helicopters.

“He was a petrol head and a big super car collector,” Mr Hartley told The Times. 

“He had at least half a dozen Ferraris. He used to fly his own helicopter too, which he kept at his home.”

On Sunday, the president, Alberto Fernandez branded the incident “atrocious” adding: “We must be severe, we cannot tolerate this."

Sydney brothers jailed over plot to blow up Etihad flight with meat grinder bomb

Two brothers have been sentenced to a total of 76 years in prison by an Australian court for planning to blow up an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi with a bomb hidden in a meat grinder.

The New South Wales Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced Khaled Khayat to 40 years in prison with no parole until 2047. His brother, Mahmoud Khayat, was sentenced to 36 years with no possibility of parole until 2044.

The two men had been found guilty of planning two terrorist attacks: the bomb and a chemical gas attack on the flight to Abu Dhabi in July 2017.

Khaled was found guilty by the New South Wales Supreme Court in May, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict against Mahmoud. His retrial also ended with a guilty verdict in September.

Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were arrested after police raids in Sydney.

Police had said that high-grade explosives used to make the bomb were flown from Turkey as part of a plot "inspired and directed" by the Islamic State.

The improvised device was to be smuggled inside the luggage of a third, unwitting brother.

A fourth brother, who is said to have fought with the Islamic State in Syria, is accused of directing the plot from overseas.

The plotters disapproved of their brother "because he drank, went clubbing, gambled and was gay, which they regarded as bringing shame on the family", judge Christine Adamson noted.

The plan was aborted at the airport when the plotters decided it was too risky to get through customs after airline staff said their bags were overweight.

In handing down her sentence, Adamson said despite no one being killed, the offenders had succeeded in "creating terror" because the public was made aware of the plot.

"The conspiracy to which both offenders were parties plainly envisaged that a large number of people would be killed," she said.

Comey admits FBI was sloppy in probe of Trump 2016 campaign

Former FBI director James Comey has admitted that he was guilty of sloppiness in his management of the investigation into links between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

His admission came days after Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department watchdog, released a 476-page report criticising aspects of how the inquiry was conducted.

In his report, which was released on Monday, Mr Horowitz said that the FBI was justified in launching the investigation – effectively undermining Donald Trump’s claim that the probe was a “witch hunt”.

But he was critical of how the FBI secured permission to conduct a wiretap on one of Mr Trump’s campaign advisers, Carter Page.

He noted that there were 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the applications for permission to bug Mr Page.

Donald Trump condemns former FBI director James Comey after he admits sloppiness in Russia probe Credit: Andrew Hamik/AP

Speaking on Fox News Sunday Mr Comey, who was sacked by Mr Trump in May 2017, accepted the findings of the Horowitz report.

“He’s right, I was wrong,” Mr Comey said.

“I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough,” he added.

“I was overconfident in those. Because he’s right. There was real sloppiness, 17 things that either should’ve been in the applications or at least discussed and characterised differently. It was not acceptable, and so he’s right. I was wrong.”

Michael Horowitz, Department of Justice watchdog found errors in conduct of FBI probe into links between Trump campaign and Russia Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Mr Horowitz was particularly critical of the FBI for using memos from Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, to convince the court to authorise the wiretaps.

However, while accepting the criticisms in the report Mr Comey seized on Mr Horowitz’s conclusion that the investigation had not been motivated by political bias.

“The FBI was accused of treason, of illegal spying, of tapping Mr Trump’s wires illegally, of opening an investigation without justification, of being a criminal conspiracy to unseat a president. All that was nonsense.”

The US president seized on Mr Comey’s admission of sloppiness.

“So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong,” he tweeted. “ Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red-handed. He was actually caught a long time ago. 

“So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others.”

Italian city evacuated as World War Two-era British bomb is defused 

Italian authorities ordered the biggest peacetime evacuation in the country since World War Two on Sunday to defuse a massive unexploded British bomb that was partially damaged when discovered in the southern city of Brindisi.

The historic evacuation displaced some 53,000 residents  —more than half — of the coastal city on the Adriatic,  due to the high risk that the 440-pound ordnance containing 40 kilograms of dynamite could explode.

The chances of detonation were increased after the munition was damaged on November 2  by a bulldozer excavating for a remodel of a cinema..

The bomb is believed to have been dropped on the city in a 1941 air raid, during the period of World War Two when Italy was still allied with Germany and Royal Air Force  bombers based in Malta were targeting Naples, Brindisi and Bari in order to disrupt Axis shipping lanes.

According to the Italian defence department, it is just one of thousands of unexploded ordnances that still lie dormant and undiscovered throughout Italy.

Earlier this month more than 10,000 Turin residents were evacuated for the deactivation of a similar British bomb, as were 4000 residents of the northern city of Bolzano in October.  In the month and a half since the unexploded bomb was discovered in Brindisi, city officials put into place a strict evacuation plan with a 1,617 metre “red zone” around the damaged bomb, which was reinforced with an external structure last week.

The city’s airport, train station, hospitals and prison were shut down as part of the operation on Sunday.  

By  mid-morning the bomb had been successfully defused by a team of more than a dozen Italian army explosives experts, who used a special metal key that was carefully turned with remote-controlled technology, as the mayor and other security officials watched drone footage of the operation from a nearby situation room. The bomb is expected to be set off tomorrow in a remote location outside the city.

Five Italians sentenced to jail for gang rape of British tourist in popular holiday resort

Five Italians have been jailed for the gang rape of a British woman in the popular resort of Meta di Sorrento, south of Naples.

The men, who were all employees of a hotel where the woman was staying, set up a WhatsApp group after the rape which they called “Bad Habits”.

They were accused of slipping the 50-year-old Kent woman a date rape drug and then subjecting her to multiple rapes in the Hotel Alimuri on the night of October 6 2016.

They filmed and took photos of the assault and some were identified by tattoos on their bodies.

The woman was on holiday with her 25-year-old daughter, who went to bed early on the night the attack happened and was not targeted by the Italians.

They were sentenced on Friday to prison terms of between four and nine years by a court in the nearby town of Torre Annunziata.

The rapists were named as Gennaro Davide Gargiulo, who was given the heaviest sentence of nine years; Antonino Miniero and Fabio De Virgilio, who were sentenced to eight years; Francesco D’Antonio, who will go to jail for seven years; and Raffaele Regio, who was given a four-year sentence.

Sorrento is popular with British tourists Credit: Look

The British victim was not in court but had been in “a state of anxiety all day” while awaiting the verdict from a panel of three judges, said Lucilla Longone, her Italian lawyer.

She was “delighted” with the tough sentences handed down, her lawyer said.

When the sentences were read out there was uproar in court, with the defendants’ families shouting and yelling abuse at the judges.

Police officers escorted the judges out of the courthouse through a side entrance as around 30 relatives hurled threats at them.

The woman was allegedly given a date-rape drug in a drink that she accepted from two of the Italians on the last night of her holiday.

The two barmen then took her to a nearby swimming pool and raped her. They then passed her onto the other men, who raped her in a part of the hotel used as staff accommodation.

The men photographed her and later shared the photos on a WhatsApp group that they called “Bad Habits”.

The judges will deliver their “motivazione” or explanation of the guilty verdicts within 90 days, as is customary under Italian law.

Meta di Sorrento is close to Sorrento, a picturesque town which commands views of the Bay of Naples and is a favoured base for exploring the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and the island of Capri.

When the men were arrested, Costanzo Iaccarino, the head of the local hoteliers’ association, said he was appalled by what had happened.

"We treat our guests with great care and the British, for us, have always been our preferred visitors. We participate in travel fairs in London every year."

Sorrento is so popular with tourists from Britain that one guidebook nicknames it “Eastbourne-on-the-Med”.