Libyan woman who claimed rape reported to be free

By Hadeel Al-shalchi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 2:31 p.m. MDT

File - Iman Al-Obeidi is seen in Tripoli in this Saturday March 26, 2011 file photo , after storming into a hotel's breakfast room to show her wounds to foreign media. A Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell foreign journalists that she was gang raped by Moammar Gadhafi's troops says she is not in custody. Iman al-Obeidi made headlines last week when she was dragged away from the hotel by government officials as she screamed her allegations of rape. A government official said she was a prostitute, but her family said she is a lawyer. On Sunday she told a Libyan dissident network based in Qatar that she was examined by a doctor to prove the rape charge. She told CNN she was detained and beaten when she tried to reach reporters a second time.

Jerome Delay, file, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

TRIPOLI, Libya — A Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell foreign journalists that she was gang raped by Moammar Gadhafi's troops was quoted by news media Monday as saying she is not in custody.

Iman al-Obeidi made headlines Saturday when she was dragged away from the hotel by government officials as she screamed her allegations of rape. A government official said she was a prostitute, but her family said she is a lawyer.

On Sunday and Monday she did telephone interviews with two TV networks, but she was not seen. A government official said she had an agreement not to talk to reporters, but she was removed from the hotel again for breaking it Sunday.

So it was not certain that she was, in fact, free from government custody, because there was no way to confirm that the caller was al-Obeidi. The last time she was seen was when she was dragged away from the hotel Saturday.

On Sunday a Libyan dissident network based in Qatar played a phone interview where a woman claiming to be al-Obeidi said she was examined by a doctor to prove the rape charge.

"I told the attorney general that I want to go to my family in Tobruk, but they declined my request," she told Libya TV. Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, is under rebel control.

She told the station that Gadhafi's forces kidnapped her from a taxi at a checkpoint, raped her and held her captive for two days.

A woman CNN believes was al-Obeidi spoke to the American news channel on Monday, claiming that she was detained and beaten when she tried to reach reporters in the Rixos hotel a second time on Sunday.

She told CNN that she was also stopped from leaving the country at the Tunisian border and returned to Tripoli. The Tunisian border is to the west of Tripoli, while Tobruk is in the east.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said al-Obeidi made a deal with the attorney general not to speak to reporters so as not to compromise her case, and that he was aware that al-Obeidi was trying to reach media on Sunday.

"She broke her agreement with the attorney general by trying to speak to the media and was taken away," Ibrahim told The Associated Press.

Ibrahim said he didn't know what happened to al-Obeidi after she was taken away from the hotel.

A woman the government said was al-Obeidi's lawyer told The Associated Press on Monday that her client was refusing to speak to reporters because her case was under investigation.

"She doesn't want to speak to journalists because she said she wants to get justice through the courts," Afaf Youssef told the AP. "But she is comfortable, living with her sister in Tripoli, and is in good spirits." Her parents live in Tobruk.

Youssef said she was one of two lawyers taking up al-Obeidi's criminal case against the men who she says raped her. She also denied earlier government claims that al-Obeidi was a prostitute.

Al-Obeidi's rape claim could not be independently verified. The Associated Press identifies only rape victims who volunteer their names.

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