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Americans Held In Pakistan Repeat Torture Allegation

SARGODHA, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Five Americans accused of contacting militant groups over the Internet and planning terrorist attacks inside Pakistan have told a Pakistani court they were tortured and threatened with death while in custody.

"They also said they were given electric shocks," their lawyer, Tariq Asad, told reporters.

The case of the Americans, in their 20s and from Virginia, has focused attention on global security dangers posed by the Internet as militants use cyberspace to evade tighter international security measures and wage holy war.

Pakistan is struggling to contain Taliban insurgents who have carried out waves of suicide bombings at crowded markets, police and military facilities and mosques.

The Americans, who have not been charged since being detained in December, say they had wanted only to provide fellow Muslims with medical and financial support.

'We Are Innocent'

"Since our arrest, the USA, FBI, and Pakistani police have tortured us," said a complaint written on tissue paper the Americans threw at journalists from a police van.

"They are trying to set us up. We are innocent. They are trying to keep us from the public-media, our families and our lawyer. Help us!"

Police official Amir Abbas Shirazi said the court had ordered medical checkups after the men, who appeared in court handcuffed and wearing track suits, complained of stomach pain.

The men were arrested in the central city of Sargodha, home to one of Pakistan's biggest air bases, 190 kilometers southeast of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, not long after arriving in Pakistan.

Two of them are of Pakistani ancestry, one of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean. They could face lengthy prison terms if found guilty.

Police officials have said emails showed the suspects had contacted the Taliban, and that the militant group had planned to use them for attacks in Pakistan, which Washington sees as a front-line state in its war against militancy.