TRIPOLI, Libya — A distraught Libyan woman stormed into a Tripoli hotel Saturday to tell foreign reporters that government troops raped her, setting off a brawl when hotel staff and government minders tried to detain her.
Iman al-Obeidi was tackled by waitresses and government minders as she sat telling her story to journalists after she rushed into the restaurant at the Rixos hotel where a number of foreign journalists were eating breakfast.
She claimed loudly that troops had detained her a checkpoint, tied her up, abused her, then led her away to be gang raped.
Her story could not be independently verified, but the dramatic scene provided a rare firsthand glimpse of the brutal crackdown on public dissent by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime as the Libyan leader fights a rebellion against his rule that began last month.
The regime has been keeping up a drumbeat of propaganda in the Tripoli-centered west of the country under its control even as it faces a weeklong international air campaign against the Libyan military.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim originally said that investigators told him al-Obeidi was drunk and seemed to be suffering mentally, but he retreated from that position later Saturday. He said she was in safe custody and her claims were being investigated but as a criminal, not a political case.
Before she was dragged out of the hotel, al-Obeidi managed to tell journalists that she was detained by a number of 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 Gadhafi militiamen violated my honor.”
The woman, who appeared in her 30’s, wore a black robe and a floral scarf around her neck and identified herself. She had scratches on her face and she pulled up her black robe to reveal a bloodied thigh. She said neighbors in the area where she was detained helped her escape.