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CRISIS IN HONDURAS

They're torturing me, Honduras' Manuel Zelaya claims

Honduras' fallen leader told The Miami Herald he is being subjected to mind-altering gas and radiation -- and that `Israeli mercenaries' are planning to assassinate him.

frobles@MiamiHerald.com

It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries'' are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

"We are being threatened with death,'' he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.

"I prefer to march on my feet than to live on my knees before a military dictatorship,'' Zelaya said in a series of back-to-back interviews.

Zelaya was deposed at gunpoint on June 28 and slipped back into his country on Monday, just two days before he was scheduled to speak before the United Nations. He sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, where Zelaya said he is being subjected to toxic gases and radiation that alter his physical and mental state.

Witnesses said that for a short time Tuesday morning, soldiers used a device that looked like a large satellite dish to emit a loud shrill noise.

Honduran police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said he knew nothing of any radiation devices being used against the former president.

"He says there are mercenaries against him? Using some kind of apparatus?'' Cerrato said. ``No, no, no, no. Sincerely: no. The only elements surrounding that embassy are police and military, and they have no such apparatus.''

Police responded to reports of looting throughout the city Tuesday night. Civil disturbances subsided Wednesday afternoon, when a crush of people rushed grocery stores and gas stations in the capital.

Israeli government sources in Miami said they could not confirm the presence of any "Israelis mercenaries'' in Honduras.

Zelaya, 56, is at the embassy with his family and other supporters, without a change of clothes or toothpaste. The power and water were turned back on, and the U.N. brought in some food. Photos showed Zelaya, his trademark cowboy hat across his face, napping on a few chairs he had pushed together.

"Look at the shape he's in -- sleeping on chairs,'' de facto President Roberto Micheletti told a local TV news station.

Micheletti took Zelaya's place after the military, executing a Supreme Court arrest warrant, burst into Zelaya's house and forced him into exile. The country's military, congress, Supreme Court and economic leaders have backed the ouster, arguing that Zelaya was bent on conducting an illegal plebiscite that they feared would ultimately lead to his reelection.

Micheletti said he was prepared to meet with Zelaya and a delegation from the Organization of American States, but only to discuss one topic: November elections.

On Wednesday, the U.N. cut off all technical aid that would have supported and given credibility to that presidential race. Conditions do not exist for credible elections, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

"I proposed dialogue, and they answered with bullets, bombs, a state of siege and by closing the airport,'' Zelaya said.

Zelaya told The Herald that Washington should be taking a stronger stance against the elite economic interests that "financed and benefited'' from the coup that ousted him three months ago.

If President Barack Obama hit Honduras with commercial sanctions or suspended free-trade agreements, the coup "would last just five minutes.''

The Obama administration suspended economic aid to Honduras and withdrew the visas of members of the current administration.

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