Brother advocates for sister held in Libya

Stranded in Tripoli, scared and wrongly embroiled in a political scandal because of a piece of "scurrilous" gossip, Australian aid worker Alexandra Bean desperately needs the federal government's help, her brother says.

The 30-year-old, who has been working in Libya for the International Organisation for Migration for some months has now faced two intense four-hour sessions of questioning over rumours she was raped by a senior Libyan health official.

Ms Bean's brother James said his sister had had limited contact with the senior official, with no form of impropriety, before the official messaged her in July to say he was facing accusations of raping her.

Mr Bean, who is based in Canberra, said the gossip spawned several versions of the story, and that his sister, known as "Pippi", had approached the United Nations to inform them of the untrue accusations.

On Tuesday Ms Bean faced four hours of questioning from security officials and was pressured to sign a statement in Arabic, he said.

Yesterday, she was about to board a flight from Tripoli to Rome, on advice from her superiors, when Libyan officials detained her and again questioned her for four hours and seized her passport, Mr Bean said.

Ms Bean told her brother she had a local lawyer with her only yesterday, who advised her the statement could only be orally translated and she should just sign it.

"She said 'no way', because of course the worry is there's something there that drags her deeper in to this," Mr Bean said.

She has been released and is staying with a friend in Tripoli, but cannot leave the country.

"For a young Australian aid worker to have to navigate some sort of political scandal that involves rape and other sexual accusations; to not have any representation, to only be interviewed by men - she needs direct assistance from Australian consular officials.

"I'm not talking about Australia providing a lawyer, I'm saying send a consular official to help her out.

"Go in there, find out she's OK, talk to the officials, negotiate so she can file an affidavit in English, have it translated, protect her."

Speaking from New York this morning, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said she should be allowed to leave the country if she wishes, and that the government would make further representations on her behalf.

Mr Bean said she was at the point emotionally where she simply wanted to be with her family.

"This has been very unsettling. She's on her own.

"If she had a consular official with her, someone behind her making sure she wasn't being mistreated and that she was safe, it'd be different.

"But they've removed her passport from her. She's brave, but this is a horrible situation for even a seasoned aid worker to be subjected to."

Aid work runs in the Bean family - Mr Bean worked in Libya for six years and their mother and sister are doing volunteer work in the Kimberley region.

"I guess it's in her blood," Mr Bean said.

Ms Bean started doing aid work in Aceh, Indonesia, before working in remote eastern Uganda, which is riddled with conflict.

"She's just one of those people who is naturally good at it. She cares, she will work all hours, she's got integrity."

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