Tripoli woman was in anti-Gaddafi protest: cousin

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2011 6:49 PM
Tripoli woman was in anti-Gaddafi protest: cousin

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to show journalists injuries she blamed on Muammar Gaddafi's militia was first targeted by the authorities after a protest, her cousin said on Sunday.

Eman al-Obaidi entered a hotel where foreign journalists were staying on Saturday to show bruises and scars she said were caused by militiamen. She was hurried out of the hotel by security men and hotel staff and bundled into a car.

Government officials in the capital first said Obaidi was either drunk or mentally ill. Later, another official suggested she was a prostitute.

On Sunday, the government appeared to backtrack on its earlier remarks, saying she had been released.

"It's a criminal case against four individuals. She is with her family. It's an honor related case," said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim.

Wadad Omar, who said she was her cousin, said Obaidi was originally from east Libya and was first arrested after taking part in a protest in the early days of the uprising in the western city of Zawiyah.

The revolt in Libya erupted in mid-February.

Omar said Obaidi was detained on her way back from Zawiyah to Tripoli, along with other women with her at that protest.

"There were other lawyers with her, and we don't have any information about them," Omar said, naming the three other women arrested as Naimaa, Amal, and Mona.

Omar said Obaidi was from the eastern city of Tobruk and was working for a tourism company in Tripoli when she was arrested.

Omar said the family did not know what had happened to Obaidi except for the little information they were able to glean from her sister's appearance on Libyan television on Sunday.

"(Obaidi's) sister went on television to say her sister is crazy," Omar said. "Muammar wants to prove to the world that she is insane. She (Obaidi's sister) is certainly under pressure from the government."

Obaidi herself told reporters in Tripoli on Saturday during her brief appearance that she had been arrested at a checkpoint and held for two days. She said he had been raped by 15 men while in detention.

Residents in Benghazi staged a demonstration in support of Obaidi on Sunday, waving monarchy-era flags -- the adopted symbol of rebels -- and chanting as they marched through the city center. "Eman, you are not alone," one placard read.

A lawyer in Benghazi told reporters she would try to take legal action to free Obaidi, although she expected it would be extremely difficult given the current conflict.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina in Tripoli)