CAIRO - Parents of a Libyan woman who claimed she was detained by Muammar Qaddafi's troops and later gang raped said in interviews aired Monday that their daughter is being held hostage at the Libyan leader's compound in Tripoli.
Iman al-Obeidi made headlines when she rushed distraught into a Tripoli hotel on Saturday, seeking to tell foreign reporters about her rape. She was tackled by waitresses and government minders and dragged away from the site in an ensuing melee.
In interviews broadcast Monday on satellite Al-Jazeera Television, al-Obeidi's parents countered government claims that their daughter had been set free after the hotel incident and was now with a sister in the Libyan capital. They also countered allegations of a government spokesman who had said she is a prostitute. (Watch interview clip below).
Later Monday, Amnesty International called on Qaddafi's regime to release the woman. The human rights group called the woman's account "stomach-churning" and called on authorities to launch "an independent and impartial investigation."
The woman's parents said al-Obeidi is a lawyer and that she is now being held at Qaddafi's compound in Bab Al-Aziziya in the capital. It's unclear where the parents spoke from and Al-Jazeera did not provide their names. The Associated Press only identifies rape victims who volunteer their names.
"I don't feel ashamed, instead my head is up high," the mother told Al-Jazeera, saying her daughter "broke the barrier that no other man could break" by coming forward about her rape.
In the Al-Jazeera footage, the teary-eyed mother holds the Libyan opposition flag around her shoulders and says al-Obeidi is "a hostage, taken by the tyrants." She also pleads for help from the "youth of Tripoli."
The mother says she received a phone call Monday from an unidentified caller, purportedly from the Qaddafi camp, telling her al-Obeidi is held at the Tripoli compound and asking her to instruct her daughter to change the rape claim in return for freedom and other benefits.
"Whatever you ask for, you will get: build a new house or get the money," the mother said the caller offered.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that al-Obeidi was a prostitute who has since her outburst at the Rixos Hotel been freed and is staying with her sister in Tripoli.
The government also said four men were interrogated in the case, including the son of a high-ranking state official.
In the Al-Jazeera interview, the father held forth a photograph he said showed al-Obeidi graduating from Law School. He said she was pursuing a postgraduate degree.
Al-Obeidi had told foreign media on Saturday that she was detained by a number of Qaddafi troops at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday. She said they were drinking whiskey and handcuffed her. She said 15 men later raped her. Al-Obeidi's claims could not be independently verified, but she showed the media wounds she said she suffered at their hands.
Stunned reporters watched as al-Obeidi was quickly tackled by government minders, waitresses waving knives, and other hotel staff. Journalists who tried to protect her were beaten.
Al-Obeidi was dragged out of the hotel and driven away. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips, who witnessed the scene, wrote that some reporters who tried recording the melee had their cameras smashed.
The London-based Amnesty International said al-Obeidi's account was "stomach-churning" and called on authorities to launch "an independent and impartial investigation" into the case, reveal al-Obeidi's whereabouts and set her free.
"The Libyan authorities have a long record of silencing those who dare speak out against human rights violations," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director, said in a statement.
"It is all the more worrying that they did not hesitate to do this, using heavy-handed methods, despite the presence of the international media," Smart said.