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Rights Groups Accuse Israeli Security of Torturing Palestinian Prisoners

A human rights report is accusing Israel of using torture on Palestinian security prisoners. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Israeli government describes the allegations as exaggerated and baseless.

Two Israeli human rights groups have accused Israel's Shin Bet security service of using torture while interrogating Palestinian prisoners. The report, by the groups B'Tselem and The Center for the Defense of the Individual, was presented at a news conference in Jerusalem.

Report author Yehezkel Lein said the practices used include beating, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation. He said prisoners are shackled to chairs in painful positions for long periods of time and subjected to humiliation, swearing and threats by interrogators.

The report said such practices are routine, though they are considered torture under international law and were banned by Israel's Supreme Court in 1999.

Responding on behalf of the Shin Bet, Israel's Justice Ministry said the report is "fraught with mistakes, groundless claims and inaccuracies." In a statement, it said that interrogations are carried out according to the law.

The Justice Ministry also said that the testimonies of prisoners interviewed in the report are exaggerated. But Lein said there is plenty of evidence.

He said many prisoners, who do not know each other, gave almost identical accounts of the abusive practices.

The Justice Ministry noted that Shin Bet interrogations provide valuable information about Palestinian terrorist activities that prevent suicide bombings in Israeli cities.