Pakistani authorities beat confessions out of some of the five northern Virginia men accused of planning terrorist acts in that country, the mother of one of the men said Friday.
Amal Khalifa, mother of Ramy Zamzam, said her son looked gaunt when she briefly visited him in a Pakistan jail, where he was being held with four friends.
"They wanted him to say he was there for terrorist reasons," Khalifa said in an interview with The Associated Press. She said she did not believe her son gave a confession, but that others did.
The trial, in the Pakistani city of Sargoda, begins Saturday. Court proceedings have been closed to the press.
Kahlifa's son described being stretched out by both arms and beaten on the torso. He also said he was deprived of sleep.
The young men, all Muslims from the Washington suburb of Alexandria, and their lawyer have also made torture allegations. Pakistani authorities have denied the claims.
Khalifa said her son was there to attend a friend's wedding, though her son never told her that when he left last year. He only said he was going away for a few days.
"I said, 'Thank God' because it was a chance for him to do something different than school and work," she said.
She described her son as a dedicated first-year dental student at Howard University.
"He had no time for anything else," she said. "He didn't even have time to come home and visit." Politics was never discussed, she said.
Pakistani police have claimed the young men contacted Pakistani-based jihad groups. They accused the five of using the social networking site Facebook and video-sharing site YouTube while they were in the U.S. to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan.
The men first came to the attention of authorities after their parents went to the FBI concerned with a farewell video the men left behind. Khalifa was reluctant to discuss the contents of the video with his mother. The video has been described as including war scenes and calls to fight for Muslims across the world, but Khalifa said the men's American lawyer viewed it and saw nothing wrong with it.
"He was a normal American student. He ordered pizza. He played soccer, played basketball," said Khalifa, a U.S. citizen and native of Egypt. Zamzam, 22, is also a U.S. citizen who has lived in the U.S. since he was a toddler.
Khalifa said she does not regret reaching out to authorities. At the time, the families were worried about their sons. And she said the FBI has helped arrange her trip to Pakistan and her jail visit. But she believes the FBI and others have ignored the torture allegations.
Despite some of the evidence against them, Khalifa said the Pakistani lawyer and Zamzam were confident of acquittal. The lawyer even told Khalifa that the men could be released Saturday.
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