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Israel Trained Prison Interrogators

September 29, 1999

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel has acknowledged for the first time that its agents help train interrogators at a southern Lebanon prison where militiamen are accused of torturing suspects.

The Khiam prison is run by an Israeli-backed Lebanese militia. But in a recent court affidavit, the military said that Shin Bet secret service agents are involved in ``everything having to do with gathering of intelligence and questioning″ at Khiam.

Human rights groups have described interrogation methods at Khiam as torture.

The 15-page affidavit _ signed by the army chief of operations, Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz _ said the prison is run by the South Lebanon Army militia and that Israel is not directly involved in administration. However, Israel acknowledged that Shin Bet agents visit Khiam, train SLA officers and wardens there and pay their salaries.

Khiam is in Israel’s so-called security zone, a Lebanese area patrolled by Israeli troops and SLA members to protect Israel’s northern border. About 150 prisoners are held at the prison on suspicion they planned or carried out attacks on Israeli troops and their allies.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have complained that interrogators at Khiam routinely torture suspects, using methods such as electric shock. One man mentioned in an Amnesty report says he was 16 years old when he was subjected to electric shocks at Khiam.

The Israeli affidavit was filed in response to an appeal by four Khiam detainees who seek to be released from the prison and want visitation rights in the meantime.

Israeli lawyer Tamar Pelleg, who is representing the detainees in their appeal to the Supreme Court, expressed surprise Wednesday at Israel’s revelations in the affidavit.

In the past, Israel would simply say it was not involved in running Khiam. Pelleg said Israel must be banned from aiding in the interrogations.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that Shin Bet agents may not use physical force against suspects under interrogation. Pelleg said that ``applies to all Shin Bet agents, including those who instruct interrogators at Khiam.″

Israel started cooperating with a south Lebanese militia in the 1970s, and has been supplying weapons and supplies ever since. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has pledged to pull his army out of Lebanon within a year.