PA minister: I was interrogated for long periods

For a Palestinian Cabinet minister arrested by Israel, the only relief from grueling 12-hour interrogations came when Hizbullah rocket attacks from Lebanon sent everyone - prisoners and guards alike - scurrying into bomb shelters. Wasfi Kibha, the Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs, spoke about his nearly five weeks in detention on Wednesday, a day after his release. He was the third to be freed since Israel arrested dozens of Hamas politicians in a crackdown against the radical Palestinian Islamic movement on June 29. "I spent 11 days under heavy interrogation. They would take me at 5:00 in the morning, hands and legs cuffed, and place me in a chair without a back until 5:00 in the evening," Kibha told The Associated Press by telephone from Jenin. "The only rest I got was during the sirens when Hizbullah launched rockets at Israel. They would take me down into a cell underground and they would leave to take shelter somewhere in the jail." Israel still holds five ministers and dozens of lawmakers from Hamas, which controls the Palestinian government. Kibha said the conditions in his cell were terrible. "It is a small place with four dirty mattresses on the ground and with two very dirty and old blankets." Israeli officials declined to comment on Kibha's interrogation. The Israeli Prisons Authority said it was investigating his allegations. Kibha said he was interrogated about belonging to a terrorist organization, but released by a military judge for lack of proof. "Since they couldn't prove their charges against me the military judge found no reason to keep me in jail. My lawyer asked them to release me and he released me," he said.