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CANE VICTIM SAYS CONFESSION WAS FORCED

SHARE CANE VICTIM SAYS CONFESSION WAS FORCED

U.S. teenager Michael Fay, released Tuesday from a Singapore jail where he was flogged for spray-painting cars, said the lashes left scars and that he was beaten and threatened with "deep freeze torture" into confessing to a crime he said he did not commmit.

The Singapore government has strongly denied that the youth was mistreated or forced into confessing to the crimes.In a telephone interview from Singapore before leaving for Dayton, Ohio, Fay said he shook his caner's hand after receiving four lashes because "I wanted to keep my pride."

"I keep my pride with me and I don't ever want to lose my pride," Fay, 19, told Reuters in a telephone call to New York. "The flogger himself did not come voluntarily, he came under government orders, so I went over afterwards and shook his hand."

Fay said he did not for now want to say anything more about the four lashes he received May 5.

Last March Singapore's ambassador to the United States, S.R. Nathan, said of the charges of coercion and mistreatment: "The (Singapore) government investigated the charge of coercion and found this unfounded and completely rejected the allegation."

But Fay, who was arrested last October and held for nine days, five of them incommunicado, while being interrogated in Tanglin police station, said Tuesday: "I am totally innocent of the caning charges, of spray-painting and damaging cars.

"They threatened to beat me, they slapped me, they pulled me off a chair by my hair, they hit me on the head with their knuckles, they kept hitting me on the back and face with their hands and they threatened me with the air-con torture room.

"They described it to me. They told me that it was much colder than any air conditioned room, that I would be soaked with water and forced to squat and they would put a big block of ice on my lap.

"Either you faint there or you tell them what they want."

So, Fay said, he confessed even though he was innocent of all charges except for possessing stolen street signs, most of which had been given to him by a friend. He took only a few himself and that offense did not involve caning.

The caning caused a diplomatic dispute between Singapore and Washington. President Clinton condemned it as out of proportion to the crime and said there were doubts about whether Fay was guilty.