Libyan woman who claimed rape now faces slander charges

Jerome Delay/AP - A Ministry of Information official, left, tries to grab Iman al-Obaidi, who said she spent two days in detention after being arrested at a checkpoint in Tripoli, Libya, and was sexually assaulted by up to 15 men while in custody in Tripoli.

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Now, in the latest twist to the saga that turned her into a symbol of defiance against Moammar Gaddafi’s government, she is being sued by her alleged assailants, said government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim. One of them, he said earlier, is the son of a high-ranking Libyan official.

“A legal case is being brought by the boys who she accused of rape,” he said. “It is a grave offense to accuse someone of a sexual offense.”

Ibrahim has given conflicting accounts of Obaidi’s fate since she was last seen being driven away from the hotel in an unmarked car. Initially, he said she was drunk and mentally unstable; then he said she was a prostitute. Later, he said she had been freed but that her family refused to allow her to talk to reporters.

Obaidi’s parents, contacted by telephone in the eastern city of Tobruk, denied that, saying they did not know where she was and that they would be happy for reporters to interview her. They praised her courage and said they had been offered money and a house if she would agree to change her story.

Video footage of the violent efforts of government agents to subdue Obaidi was broadcast around the world, and human rights groups have taken up her case. On Monday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch appealed to the Libyan government to release her immediately.

 
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