WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan has quietly released from a secret detention system nearly 100 terrorism suspects, many of whom were held without charge, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups.
Opponents said those released were among some 500 Pakistanis believed to have been secretly detained by Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington’s fight against terrorism since 2001, the Times said on its web site.
The newspaper said evidence of the detention system emerged from interviews with lawyers and human rights officials in Pakistan and a review of cases and court records.
Asked about the report, a senior U.S. intelligence official said: “Pakistan has been and continues to be a key partner in the fight against terrorism. Their efforts have helped disrupt terrorist plots and have saved lives.”
“The United States does not conduct or condone torture,” the official said.
Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups told the newspaper that in at least two instances, detainees were handed over to the United States without any legal extradition proceedings.
In some cases, detainees recounted that they had been interrogated in the presence of English-speaking foreigners, whom human rights officials and lawyers suspect are Americans, the newspaper said.
Detainees were warned upon their release not to speak to anyone about their detention, but information about their experiences was coming out through relatives and lawyers, the report said.
The Pakistani government denies detaining people illegally or torturing them and says many of the missing are in regular jails on criminal charges, while other cases have been fabricated, the report said.
U.S. officials in Pakistan and in Washington refused to comment on the cases, the Times said, and Pakistan has given no official reason for releasing detainees from the secret detention system.
Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a lawyer working at the Supreme Court who has taken up the cause of the missing said the government was responding because the cases were coming to light. “They want to avoid the publicity.”
Editing by Todd Eastham