Thursday, March 02, 2006

Released Britons say they were tortured in Egypt

Thu Mar 2, 2006

LONDON (Reuters) - Three Britons jailed in Egypt for spreading propaganda for an Islamist group said they were tortured for their political beliefs and forced to sign false confessions.

The Britons -- Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz and Ian Nisbett -- were deported to London on Wednesday after serving almost four years of a five-year sentence.

They were among a group of 26 men jailed for between one and five years for spreading propaganda of the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party).

"During our imprisonment we were tortured and electrocuted, we and our families were threatened and we were forced to sign a confession we neither agreed with nor sanctioned," Nisbett said in a prepared statement given to reporters on their return home.

"We experienced, witnessed and met people who were tortured in the most grotesque and obscene ways for belonging to peaceful opposition parties. Some of them had their genitalia electrocuted and some were put in solitary confinement in the dark with no human contact for nine years," he said.

The Egyptian authorities say they investigate all complaints of torture in detention. The human rights pressure group Amnesty International had labeled the trial unfair.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry agreed to set them free because they had served three quarters of their sentence. Including the time spent awaiting trial, they had been in jail since early 2002.

After flying in to London's Heathrow airport on Wednesday, the three men were detained and questioned for more than three hours by British intelligence officers before an emotional reunion with their families.

Voicing his anger over their treatment on return, Nisbett said Special Branch officers took their DNA, their fingerprints and "interrogated us again about our political beliefs."

Nisbett went on to launch a scathing attack on British Prime Minister Tony Blair for choosing Egypt as a holiday destination.

"We were held by an evil and brutal regime, a regime which is supported and funded by western governments, a regime which routinely tortures, murders and terrorizes its citizens," he said.

"So imagine our feelings when we heard that Tony Blair was holidaying in the same country where a few miles away British citizens were being tortured and held without evidence," he added.

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