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Gadhafi seizes woman who claimed rape, mom says

The parents of a woman who claimed she was gang-raped by Libyan troops said in interviews aired Monday that their daughter is being held hostage at Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

The parents of a woman who claimed she was gang-raped by Libyan troops said in interviews aired Monday that their daughter is being held hostage at Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli.

Iman al-Obeidi made headlines when she rushed distraught into a Tripoli hotel on Saturday, seeking to tell foreign reporters about her alleged rape. After showing bruises and scars she said were caused by militiamen, al-Obeidi was tackled by waitresses and government minders and hurried out of the hotel and into a car that sped away.

In interviews broadcast Monday on Al-Jazeera, al-Obeidi's parents countered government claims that their daughter had been set free after the hotel incident and was now with a sister in the Libyan capital. They also denied allegations of a government spokesman who had said she is a prostitute.

The parents said al-Obeidi is a lawyer and that she is being held at Gadhafi's compound in Bab Al-Aziziya in the capital. It's unclear where the parents spoke from and Al-Jazeera did not provide their names.

"I don't feel ashamed, instead my head is up high," the mother told Al-Jazeera, saying her daughter "broke the barrier that no other man could break" by coming forward about her rape.

'Taken by the tyrants'
In the Al-Jazeera footage, the teary-eyed mother holds the Libyan opposition flag around her shoulders and says al-Obeidi is "a hostage, taken by the tyrants." She also pleads for help from the "youth of Tripoli."

The mother says she received a phone call Monday from an unidentified caller, purportedly from the Gadhafi camp, telling her al-Obeidi is held at the Tripoli compound and asking her to instruct her daughter to change the rape claim in return for freedom and other benefits.

"Whatever you ask for, you will get: build a new house or get the money," the mother said the caller offered.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that al-Obeidi was a prostitute who has been freed and is staying with her sister in Tripoli.

The government also said four men were interrogated in connection with the hotel incident, including the son of a high-ranking state official. Ibrahim said "a criminal case" was being investigated.

In the Al-Jazeera interview, the father exhibited a photograph he said showed al-Obeidi graduating from law school. He said she was pursuing a postgraduate degree.

Libyan officials initially suggested they thought al-Obeidi was either drunk or mentally ill.

But her father told Al-Jazeera that al-Obeidi "has her full mental abilities."

Al-Obeidi told foreign media at the Rixos hotel on Saturday that she was detained by a number of Gadhafi troops at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday. She said they were drinking whiskey and handcuffed her. She said 15 men later raped her.

"They tied me up ... they even defecated and urinated on me," she said, her face streaming with tears.

The hotel's waiters called her a traitor and told her to shut up. She retorted: "We're all Libyan brothers, we are supposed to be treated the same, but this is what the Gadhafi militiamen did to me, they violated my honor."

As al-Obeidi spoke, a hotel waitress brandished a butter knife, a government minder reached for his handgun and another waitress pulled a jacket tightly over her head.

The scene quickly turned chaotic. Journalists who tried to intervene were pushed out of the way by the minders. A British television reporter was punched and a CNN camera was smashed on the ground.

Al-Obeidi's claims could not be independently verified.

Wadad Omar, who said al-Obeidi was her cousin, said the woman was originally from east Libya and was first arrested after taking part in a protest in the early days of the uprising in the western city of Zawiya. The revolt in Libya erupted in mid-February.

Omar said al-Obeidi was detained on her way back from Zawiya to Tripoli, along with other women with her at that protest.

"There were other lawyers with her, and we don't have any information about them," Omar told Reuters, naming the three other women arrested as Naimaa, Amal and Mona.

Omar said al-Obeidi was from the eastern city of Tobruk and was working for a tourism company in Tripoli when she was arrested.

'You are not alone'The London-based Amnesty International said al-Obeidi's account was "stomach-churning" and called on authorities to launch "an independent and impartial investigation" into the case, reveal al-Obeidi's whereabouts and set her free.

"The Libyan authorities have a long record of silencing those who dare speak out against human rights violations," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director, said in a statement.

"It is all the more worrying that they did not hesitate to do this, using heavy-handed methods, despite the presence of the international media," Smart said.

Residents in Benghazi staged a demonstration in support of al-Obeidi on Sunday, waving monarchy-era flags — the adopted symbol of rebels — and chanting as they marched through the city center. "Iman, you are not alone," one placard read.