Libyan woman claiming rape will face charges

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The Independent Online

A Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell foreign journalists how she was gang raped by Muammar Gaddafi's troops will face criminal charges, a government spokesman said today.





The spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said the men accused by Iman al-Obeidi are now suing her. A son of a high ranking Libyan official was among those she claimed had raped her, he said.



"The boys she accused are bringing a case against her because it's a very grave offence to accuse someone of a sexual crime," Ibrahim told reporters in the Libyan capital.



Al-Obeidi made headlines when she rushed distraught into Tripoli's Rixos Hotel on Saturday, seeking to speak to foreign media. She claimed she was detained by a number of Gaddafi troops at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday. She said they were drinking whiskey and handcuffed her, and that 15 men later raped her.



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



As she started to tell her story, al-Obeidi was tackled by waitresses and government minders and dragged away from the hotel, and has since been missing. Her parents claim she is held hostage at Gaddafi's compound in the Libyan capital.



Libyan authorities have alternately labeled al-Obeidi a drunk, a prostitute and a thief.



Ibrahim today refused to discuss al-Obeidi's whereabouts. But in an interview with the AP on Sunday, he had said she was with her sister in the Libyan capital. He also said at the time that police have a file on al-Obeidi for prostitution and petty theft.



However, al-Obeidi's parents told satellite Al-Jazeera Television yesterday that their daughter is a lawyer now pursuing a post-graduate degree.



The mother said she received a phone call yesterday from an unidentified caller, purportedly from the Gaddafi 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 such as cash or a new house.



The parents lauded their daughter's courage in stepping forward about her ordeal. It was unclear where they spoke from and Al-Jazeera did not provide their names.



The London-based Amnesty International said yesterday that al-Obeidi's account was "stomach-churning" and called on Libyan authorities to launch "an independent and impartial investigation" into the case, reveal al-Obeidi's whereabouts and set her free.

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