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Man Arrested in Protest of Prisoner Death Says He Was Tortured

August 9, 1996

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) _ A man arrested for taking part in a protest against the torture of prisoners in Palestinian jails remained hospitalized today after having been tortured himself.

Ayman Sabbah, 35, was among hundreds of Palestinians arrested following anti-government protests set off by the death last week of prisoner Mahmoud Jemayel, who died from internal bleeding and a broken skull.

Palestinian officials said Jemayel’s death was an isolated incident. But his death and accusations of brutality by Palestinian security forces are putting new pressure on the 2-year-old government of Yasser Arafat.

Including Jemayel, seven Palestinians have died in custody since the start of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in May 1994.

Even as Jemayel’s interrogators were tried and convicted in a Palestinian military court last weekend, dozens of Palestinians who had protested his death were themselves being tortured, released detainees said.

Sabbah, who has four children and runs a spare car parts business, was arrested after taking part in an Aug. 2 protest in Tulkarem.

In an interview Thursday from his hospital bed in Nablus, Sabbah told The Associated Press that interrogators at Jneid Prison _ where Jemayel was tortured _ had whipped his feet and hands and forced him to lie on a chair while one interrogator pressed on his feet and another on his chest.

Sabbah, who suffers from asthma, said he also was forced to stand on one foot with his hands in the air and sit down and stand up hundreds of times in succession.

``I thought I was going to die,″ Sabbah said, looking pale and tired. ``I kept on falling because I was passing out.″

He denied accusations that he had thrown stones at police and said his interrogators had wanted him to give them names of other demonstrators.

The Palestinian legislative council met behind closed doors in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Thursday to hear from a committee of legislators that investigated Jemayel’s death.

Committee member Salah Tamari, an outspoken critic of Arafat, said the committee found that violations of human rights were numerous but isolated. ``If we overlook them, then they will become systematic,″ he said.

But legislator Azmi Shuabi said the brutality was already systematic and ``coming from the headquarters.″ Officials in charge of the interrogators convicted in Jemayel’s death refused to appear before the committee, he said.

Ghassan Khatib, director of a Palestinian media center in Jerusalem and an Arafat critic, said the torture cases that have surfaced in the past week are not exceptional. ``Almost every detainee is beaten up,″ he said.

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