February 2, 2010 / 8:10 AM / 10 years ago

Americans held in Pakistan complain of torture

SARGODHA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Five Americans accused of contacting militants over the Internet and planning terrorist attacks told a court on Tuesday they were tortured by the FBI and Pakistani police attempting to frame them.

A journalist displays a note written on tissue paper, which was tossed out by one-of-five American men arrested in Pakistan held for having possible links to terrorism, as they arrived to make an court appearance in Sargodha, Punjab province, 190 km (118 miles) southeast of Islamabad February 2, 2010. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

“They also said they were given electric shocks,” their lawyer, Tariq Asad, told reporters.

The case of the Americans, in their 20s and from Virginia, has underscored global security dangers posed by the Internet as militants use cyberspace to evade tighter international security measures and wage holy war.

Pakistan is struggling to contain Taliban insurgents who have carried out waves of suicide bombings at crowded markets, police and military facilities and mosques.

The Americans, who have not been charged since being detained in December, say they had wanted only to provide fellow Muslims with medical and financial support.

“WE ARE INNOCENT”

“Since our arrest, the USA, FBI and Pakistani police have tortured us,” said a complaint written on tissue paper the Americans threw at journalists from a police van.

“They are trying to set us up. We are innocent. They are trying to keep us from the public-media, our families and our lawyer. Help us!”

U.S. embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire rejected the allegations as “completely baseless.” A police official also denied the torture accusations.

Police official Amir Abbas Shirazi said the court had ordered medical checkups after the men, who appeared in court handcuffed and wearing track suits, complained of stomach pain.

Asad said he was seeking access to the men. They are expected to appear in court again on February 16.

The Americans were arrested in the central city of Sargodha, home to one of Pakistan’s biggest air bases, 190 km (120 miles) southeast of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, not long after arriving in Pakistan.

Two of them are of Pakistani ancestry, one of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean. They could face lengthy prison terms if found guilty.

Police officials have said emails showed the suspects had contacted the Taliban, and that the militant group had planned to use them for attacks in Pakistan, which Washington sees as a front-line state in its war against militancy.

Slideshow (5 Images)

A defence lawyer distributed a letter he said Egyptian suspect Ramy Zamzam, 23, wrote to his parents.

“Dear mom and dad. Stay patient and trust and pray to Allah. We have been tortured since our arrest,” it said.

“Keep trying your hardest to contact us directly and speak to us personally. I love you all. Just stay patient and keep making dua (prayer). Your son Ramy Zamzam.”

Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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