Jailed Ethiopian political activists are tortured and held in appalling conditions, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday, in a report dismissed by the government as lies.
Former detainees in the capital's Maekelawi prison describe "being slapped, kicked, and beaten with various objects, including sticks and gun butts, primarily during interrogations", the report said.
Other inmates reported "being held in painful stress positions for hours upon end, hung from the wall by their wrists, often while being beaten," the US-based rights watchdog said, basing the report on interviews with 35 former prisoners.
But Ethiopian authorities said the report was "extremely biased and ideologically marred" and lacked credible evidence.
"They haven't come up with any proof," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP, adding that prison authorities comply by strict rules ensuring humane treatment of inmates.
"Contrary to international standards of human rights monitoring bodies they did not base their findings on an on-sight investigation."
The report said relatives and lawyers were barred from visiting inmates, and urged authorities not to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge.
"Cutting detainees off from their lawyers and relatives not only heightens the risk of abuse but creates enormous pressure to comply with the investigators' demands," HRW's Leslie Lefkow said, claiming that most of those held in Maekelawi are political prisoners.
HRW has accused Ethiopia of using anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on political dissent, but Shimeles said the law was "perfectly in accord with international standards".
Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, who is serving five years on terror-related offences, spent the first two months of her sentence at Maekelawi, which her father described as "horrible."
"She was treated badly and was without food for nine days, and she was put in solitary confinement," Alemu Gobebe, told AFP.
Alemu, who is also Reeyot's lawyer, said he was not allowed to see her when she was in Maekelawi, from where she has since been transferred.
"She was in a bad condition, she was terrorised, she was in fear and her body was depleted," said Alemu.
Ethiopia's anti-terrorism legislation, introduced in 2009, has been criticised by HRW and other rights groups for being vague and used to jail political opposition and independent journalists.
Two Swedish journalists also jailed under the law were released in September 2012 after serving 13 months of their sentence.