TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A weeping Libyan woman made a desperate plea for help on Saturday, slipping into a Tripoli hotel full of foreign journalists to show bruises and scars she said had been inflicted on her by Muammar Gaddafi’s militiamen.
“Look at what Gaddafi’s militias did to me,” Eman al-Obaidi screamed with tears in her eyes, pulling up her coat to show blood on her upper leg in the restaurant of the hotel.
After being intimidated by security men and hotel staff, who also beat journalists trying to interview her, she was eventually bundled into a car and driven away.
Her face heavily bruised, she said she had been arrested at a checkpoint in Tripoli because she was from the city of Benghazi, bastion of the insurgency against Gaddafi’s rule.
“They swore at me and they filmed me. I was alone. There was whiskey. I was tied up,” she said, weeping and stretching out her arms to show scars. “They peed on me. They violated my honor.”
Obaidi, who appeared to be in her 30s and was wearing a loose black coat and slippers, said she had been raped by 15 men and held for two days.
Her story could not be independently verified. It was unclear whether she had escaped or had been released.
“Investigators phoned me and said she was drunk, that she could be suffering mentally,” Libya’s government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters, citing a preliminary report.
“We are checking who she is, who her father is, who her brothers and sisters are, whether she was really abused or whether it’s fantasies.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, speaking alongside Ibrahim, said he would look into the incident. “I am sure whe will be treated according to the law,” he said.
“I am not scared of anything. I will be locked up immediately after this,” Obaidi shouted. “Look at my face. Look at my back. All of my body is bruised.”
As she spoke, sobbing and shaking, hotel staff and plainclothes security men tried to push and intimidate her. She ran from one table to another in the hotel restaurant.
In the ensuing scuffle, one hotel staff member grabbed a table knife and yelled: “You traitor. How dare you say that?”
A man in civilian clothes took out a gun.
A foreign journalist who was trying to get away from the scene with a camera on which he had recorded footage of the scuffle was thrown to the ground and kicked.
One Western television crew had their camera broken.
Obaidi was eventually forced into a garden outside the hotel. Journalists trying to get to her were pushed away.
“Leave me alone,” she shouted at security men, as one man tried to cover her mouth with his hand.
She was then dragged to a parking lot and bundled into a white car. Security men said they were taking her to hospital.
“They are taking me to jail,” she yelled, struggling with the security guards. “They are taking me to jail.”
Tripoli is Gaddafi’s biggest stronghold, full of loyal militiamen who crack down on any form of dissent as Gaddafi’s troops battle rebel forces in other parts of the country.
International human rights groups say Gaddafi loyalists have been enforcing their rule by arresting thousands of people. Libyan officials say they only arrest people linked to armed gangs or al Qaeda militants.
But as Western powers press on with air raids which they say are designed to protect civilians against Gaddafi’s forces, people in the capital have become more outspoken in their criticism of the state.
Writing by Maria Golovnina; editing by Andrew Roche