Tripoli: A petition demanding the release of a young Libyan woman who has accused government soldiers of raping her has reached its target of half a million signatures.
The petition, which will now be delivered to the Turkish embassy in Benghazi, bastion of the Libyan insurgency, requests that Ankara guarantee "the safety and release of Iman al-Obeidi".
Obeidi has not been seen in public since March 26, when she burst into Tripoli`s Rixos hotel at breakfast time and threw open her coat to reveal scars and bruises on her body, footage of which was posted on the Internet.
"Gaddafi is indifferent to international outrage, but he listened to the Turkish government when it asked him to release foreign journalists," said Avaaz.org, organiser of the online campaign, on Sunday.
"We urge you to use all diplomatic means to help ensure the safety and release of Iman al-Obeidi and to encourage the launch of a thorough investigation into the rape and abuse she suffered," Avaaz said in an address to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Words cannot express the courage Iman showed in speaking out - and we can only imagine the terror she must be facing right now in the hands of (Muammar) Gaddafi`s infamous thugs," a statement on the website said.
As she screamed: "Film me, film me, show the whole world all they did to me," she was dragged off by security guards amid scenes of mayhem while foreign journalists who tried to intervene were shoved aside.
"They tied me up and abused me for two days," she said of regime troops manning a Tripoli checkpoint, adding they targeted her because she came from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, where the insurgency against Gaddafi erupted.
Government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said the investigation was continuing as some of the troops lodged a complaint for defamation and because "she has refused to undergo medical examination" to prove she had been raped.
Facebook groups in support of Obeidi have mushroomed online, and an awareness-raising campaign would be launched in Turkey using advertisements, Avaaz said.