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On Saturday, a woman named Iman al-Obeidi burst into a Tripoli hotel full of foreign journalists and told them that she'd been taken prisoner and gang-raped by a group of pro-Qaddafi militiamen. She was wrestled away by security forces and taken to another location.

She still hasn't turned up. Her mother, Aisha Ahmad, says that Iman is being held by government forces. Ahmad claims that she's been contacted by state authorities who want her to put pressure on Iman to change her story.

"Last night at 3, they called from Gaddafi's compound and asked me to convince my daughter Iman to change what she said, and we will set her free immediately and you can take anything you and your children would ask for," Ahmad said in an interview with Britain's Sky News.

"Money, new home, just ask your daughter to change what she has said. I told my daughter, keep silent."

Al-Obeidi may soon face criminal charges herself. She named four of the men who she says raped her and held her prisoner for two days. According to Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Libyan government, this could be enough to land her in legal trouble.

"The four guys are having a case filed against her because instead of going to a police station and filing a case against them she went to the media and exposed their names," Ibrahim said this week.

"Now their honour is tainted, their families black-named and this in the Islamic law is a very grave offense."

Al-Obeidi's account has not been independently verified, but journalists who were there when she burst into the hotel say she gave the impression of one who was telling the truth. CNN noted that her injuries--including bruises, scars, and rope burns--"appeared consistent" with her story.

Charles Clover, a Financial Times reporter who was at the hotel when al-Obeidi showed up, writes that she "behaved very much like someone who had been through the events she was describing and did not contradict herself."

The story of Iman al-Obeidi has spread across Libya and the international media. Clover writes that by trying to impose a veil of silence, Qaddafi's government handled the incident in the worst possible way.

"Had the press minders simply given us a conference room to hear Ms Obeidi out, it would have been a minor story in a day full of Syrian riots, Japanese nuclear reactor leaks and Libyan rebels advancing on Ajdabiya," writes Clover. "Instead, the full-scale assault on Ms Obeidi by a gang of regime thugs was splashed across front pages the world over ... All the careful efforts of the Libyan government to nurture their parallel reality were demolished that day."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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