Woman accuses Gaddafi's men of rape

A harrowing but unusually public glimpse of the ugly face of Muammar Gaddafi's police state was afforded yesterday by security men who seized a distraught Libyan woman as she complained of multiple rape by militiamen. Security agents forced her into a car after a brawl in which at least two journalists were attacked and one had his camera smashed. Before she was taken away, the woman shouted: "They say they are taking me to hospital, but they are taking me to prison."

The woman, Eman al-Obaidi, had burst into a hotel restaurant where many journalists were sitting, lifted the skirt of her loose black clothing to show bruises and lacerations on her right thigh, and shouted that they were the work of Gaddafi loyalists. After hotel staff – several of whom later tried to silence the woman, in tandem with state security personnel – ushered her to a table and journalists approached her, she said she had been arrested at a checkpoint in Tripoli because she is from Benghazi. "They swore at me and they filmed me," she said. "I was alone. There was whiskey. I was tied up. They defecated and urinated on me."

Addressing hotel staff, security men and reporters, she shouted, weeping: "You keep saying we are all Libyans, but look what they did to me, Gaddafi's men. As soon as I am done here they will take me to prison. They violated my honour [the common Arabic expression for rape]. I am not scared of anything. I will be locked up immediately after this. Look at my face. Look at my back. All of my body is bruised."

A waitress picked up a knife and threatened the woman, shouting: "You are a traitor. How dare you say that?" One journalist, Charles Clover, an American who works for the Financial Times, interposed himself between the woman and security staff to protect her, but was forced away by security men who pushed him to the ground, surrounded him in an attempt to wrest his mobile phone from him and, witnesses said, kicked him. Another journalist, Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News, was punched by a security man, and a CNN camera was smashed and two memory cards taken from its crew.

As attempts were made to restrain and take Ms al-Obaidi into custody, she moved from table to table to avoid her pursuers. Eventually she was forced on to the terrace behind the main restaurant as hotel staff drew the curtains to block off the view. However, from a public side room she could be clearly seen in conversation with a senior female member of the hotel staff, and at one point she shouted to reporters that she had been raped "by 15 men". She was hustled out of the building through a melee of protesting journalists and television crews and into the waiting car.

Ms al-Obaidi's claims cannot be immediately verified but she continued to maintain the truth of them in the presence of aggressive male security officers. While she was clearly in an emotional state, there was no obvious evidence to support claims by Libyan officials that she was drunk. A government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said later the woman was being questioned about the alleged rapes and, in response to many requests, that he hoped reporters would be allowed to interview her.

The incident comes amid a widening credibility gap over some of the regime's own public pronouncements – including the claim that "close to 100" civilians have been killed by coalition bombs and missiles.

By nightfall yesterday neither Col Gaddafi nor his sons had been shown on television since Wednesday. State TV reported that the "brother leader" had promoted all members of the armed forces and the police for "their heroic and courageous fight against the crusader, colonialist assault". There is no indication if the promotions were coinciding with any effort to forestall possible clandestine overtures by senior figures in the leadership's inner circle.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral