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U.S. accused of holding terror suspects on ships

2/06/2008 - 19:16

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has been secretly detaining terrorism suspects aboard floating "prison ships," a British legal charity charged on Monday, but the Pentagon described the report as inaccurate.

The charity Reprieve, citing sources including U.S.military officials, parliamentary bodies and former prisoners,said it believed the U.S. government had operated as many as 17shipboard prisons, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.

"Prisoners have been interrogated under tortuous conditionsbefore being rendered to other, often undisclosed locations,"Reprieve said, adding that it would issue a detailed reportlater this year.

Department of Defence spokesman J.D. Gordon called thereport "inaccurate and misleading."

"We do not operate detention facilities on board Navyships. DoD detention facilities are in Iraq, Afghanistan andGuantanamo," he said.

The United States has denied torturing terrorism suspects,but a Justice Department report last month cited FBI agents aswarning that some CIA questioning techniques were "borderlinetorture."

The military has acknowledged holding John Walker Lindh, aU.S. citizen accused of being a Taliban and al Qaeda supporter,on ships after his capture in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Lindh was held on two ships, the Bataan and Peleliu. Thegovernment says he was given medical treatment and was nottortured. Gordon said the ships were a considered safe place toquestion Lindh away from the battlefield.

Reprieve named three others, including Australian DavidHicks, as suspects believed to have once been held on U.S."prison ships." It cited a former prisoner held at the U.S.detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as saying about 50others were held on the Bataan.

Gordon said fewer than 10 terrorism suspects were held, onthe Bataan and Peleliu, in late 2001 and early 2002. He alsodismissed Reprieve's count of up to 17 ships as misleading.(Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, editing by Alan Elsner)


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