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The twin sister of Florida socialite Jill Kelley, whose complaint to the FBI ultimately cost former CIA director David Petraeus his job, has emerged from the shadows to put a human face on her role in the scandal.
Natalie Khawam was joined by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred at a packed news conference that left most relevant questions unanswered.
Instead of details, Khawam offered impressions in a voice that sometimes seemed close to breaking.
"During my darkest times, Jill held the light for me," Khawam declared, reading from a prepared statement. "She and my brother-in-law, Dr (Scott) Kelley, took me in with my son when we needed refuge and protection."
Khawam refused to answer questions, as did Allred, who said the aim was to explain "who Natalie Khawam really is, correct some misconceptions ... and to discuss why former CIA director David Petraeus and his wife provided an affidavit in her custody battle".
The intense spotlight began swinging toward Khawam and her sister when Kelley's indirect role in Petraeus's downfall became public.
An ambitious party hostess who made herself known too many senior officers at Tampa, Florida-based US Central Command, Kelley initially complained to an FBI special agent about allegedly troubling or threatening anonymous emails she had received. The subsequent inquiry led to the FBI discovering that the married Petraeus had had an affair with his married biographer, former Army officer Paula Broadwell.
The investigation, however, also ensnared Marine Corps General John Allen, who reportedly had had extensive email communications with Kelley that have been described as "flirtatious".
Ever since, Khawam's and Kelley's own legal and financial travails have been publicly exposed. Kelley's bayside mansion in Tampa is in foreclosure, and she and her surgeon husband have been entangled in multiple lawsuits. Khawam filed for bankruptcy protection in April, claiming debts totalling $US3.6 million ($A3.48 million).
Court records in the child custody case indicated that Petraeus and Allen had written letters of support on Khawam's behalf, though District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz cited in a November 9, 2011, document "serious concerns not only about Ms Khawam's credibility as a witness, but also about her lack of integrity (and) her alienating behaviour".
On Tuesday, Allred said Petraeus and his wife, Holly, supported Khawam because "both have known Natalie and her son personally for many years. They both spoke up through their court declarations in support of Natalie when they learned that she was being unfairly portrayed and was a victim of injustice....
"They both spoke up to the judge in support to Natalie and what a loving supportive mom she was.
"Natalie feels both General Petraeus and his wife Holly have made so many sacrifices and contributed so much to our country, she will be forever grateful to them for not abandoning her when she needed them the most," Allred said.