Torture: Amnesty International says that the practice is more widespread than ever. It targets five regimes in its latest report

'Moderate amount of pressure'; ISRAEL

Jerusalem - At 2am on 22 April last year Abd al-Samad Harizat, 30, a computer expert suspected of belonging to Hamas, the Islamic militant movement, was arrested in Hebron. He was under five feet tall but in good health. He was taken to Moscobiyyah prison, in Jerusalem. After hours of interrogation by the Israeli Shin Bet security service, he fell into a coma and died three days later of a brain haemorrhage caused by violent shaking.

"There is no doubt whatsoever about the cause of death," said a British pathologist cited by Amnesty. "He died from torture." Systematic torture by Israel of Palestinians has been criticised by human-rights organisations for 25 years. Human Rights Watch/Middle East, based in New York, said: "Israel's ill-treatment of Palestinians under interrogation is distinguished not only by its conveyor-belt quality but also by the huge number of people who experience it."

After the start of the Palestinian intifada in 1987 the Israeli B'Tselem human-rights organisation estimated 5,000 Palestinians a year were being subjected to some types of torture. Amnesty said hooding, beating, sleep deprivation and prolonged shackling in painful positions are common. The severity of interrogation increased after the start of suicide bombings by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 1994. A lawyer said: "Before there was some beating; now it is normal. Before the period of interrogation was shorter; now people are spending 90 days in interrogation."

Interrogators are legally allowed to apply "moderate physical pressure" but human-rights organisations say that in practice this gives official permission for the torture of suspects.

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