Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chuck Goudie, "Chicago court hears chilling tales of torture," ABC7 Chicago, March 14, 2006.

In federal court in Chicago Tuesday, chilling stories about the torture of political prisoners by Israeli police. Testimony came during a hearing in the case against Muhammad Salah, who is accused of laundering money for Palestinian terrorists.

Muhammad Salah's lawyer put on the witness stand Tuesday a world renowned human rights lawyer who says that he has interviewed hundreds of detainees in Israeli prisons who were systematically tortured to force them to confess. That is precisely the defense that Salah is claiming, that only after months of torture, did he sign a confession that is now the basis for his prosecution as a Hamas terrorist.

Defense lawyers want to ban a confession by Muhammad Salah made while he was in custody in Israel in 1993. The Bridgeview man is scheduled for trial this fall on charges he siphoned funds to Hamas.

Israeli attorney Jonathan Kuttab testified as an expert for the defense. Kuttab said he has documented human rights abuses in Israeli prisons consistent with what Salah claims. He says they were subjected to "the shabak technique," which was widely used and accepted by Israeli police, including the hooded detainment of suspected Hamas members, the short-legged kindergarten chair that suspects would be handcuffed to, the kicking and beating across the groin and chest, and what was known as the painful frog crouch.

"We have studies that show that 96 percent of those who are interrogated in Israel end up signing confessions in Hebrew and all of them complain about mistreatment and torture. Now, if those statements can be imported to the United States, and used against US citizens in this country, this is really terrible. We are told these people are terrorists. We need to get them information from them. We have to use every method possible. And we don't realize that torture gets the confession that doesn't get you the truth," said Kuttab.

Even though Kuttab testified Tuesday that his group interviewed more than 700 prisoners and that the majority had been tortured. Under cross examination, he admitted having no direct knowledge of whether Muhammad Salah was tortured.

Tuesday was the first time in more than a week that the Salah proceedings were open to the public. Testimony by two members of the Israeli secret police was closed last week, apparently to protect their identities, although partial transcripts of their testimony may be available in the next week or two.

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