Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Egypt Brutally Tortures "Hezbollah Defendants"

Hezbollah operative in Egypt trial protests 'brutal torture'
October 28, 2009

By Samer al-Atrush (AFP)

CAIRO — A Lebanese Hezbollah operative on trial in Egypt for allegedly plotting attacks in the country on Wednesday accused his interrogators of "brutal torture" that has left him deaf in one ear.

Mohammed Mansur, on trial with 25 other defendants, told AFP during a break in a court session that he and all the others had been "brutally tortured," saying his health was failing.

"All the detainees have been tortured. I lost hearing in my right ear because of the constant torture. I was electrocuted and beaten," he said.

The men are accused of plotting attacks against ships in the Suez Canal and tourist sites. Most of the group, including five Palestinian suspects and one Sudanese, were rounded up between late last year and January.

Four of the defendants, among them the alleged Lebanese ringleader Mohammed Qublan, are being tried in absentia by the state security court after they fled the country.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said Mansur is a Hezbollah agent in charge of smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

One of Mansur's lawyers said Mansur had admitted in questioning that he proposed attacks against "Israeli targets" in Egypt to avenge the assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander, but was turned down by his superiors.

"I am innocent of any charges regarding attacks towards Egypt," said Mansur, who was kept in a black metal cage in the courtroom along with the other defendants.

"My task was to send support for our brothers in Gaza. I am in the resistance, like (the late French president Charles) De Gaulle. He's the hero of France, right?" said Mansur.

A handwritten letter by the defendants obtained by AFP alleged they were all tortured with electric shocks.

Local and international human rights groups say torture is routine in Egypt. "Every year, we have 12 to 20 deaths from torture in the country," said Hafez Abu Saada of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights.

Earlier this month, the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza said Egyptian security men tortured a senior official's brother to death in prison in the northern city of Alexandria. Egypt denies the allegation.

And Egyptian security officials say the defendants in the Hezbollah trial have been examined by doctors who found no traces of abuse.

The government has also dismissed accusations that the charges of plotting attacks in Egypt were fabricated to damage Hezbollah, which is not known to have carried out attacks in the Middle East outside Lebanon and Israel.

In an acerbic speech in December, Nasrallah accused Cairo of complicity with Israel during its 22-day war against Hamas in Gaza that ended in January, outraging the Egyptian government.

Egypt has accused Iran, Hezbollah's chief sponsor, of being behind the alleged plot and promised that the prosecution's evidence would "astonish" the Tehran government.

But the defence says the prosecution has not presented the evidence it said was in its possession, such as explosives and arms allegedly found with some of the defendants.

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