Some 500 people have been rescued this year from unlicensed drug-treatment clinics that brutalize and even torture their patients, Ecuador's attorney general said Friday.

About 30 people are being processed after being arrested in operations against these unlicensed rehabilitation centers, Galo Chiriboga said during a joint press conference with Health Minister Carina Vance.

Those in custody face charges of kidnapping, human trafficking and torture.

Chiriboga's announcement came a day after prosecutors announced the rescue of 17 people who were being held in an underground clinic in the Quito suburb of Hacienda Pisuli.

Seven people were arrested in that operation, including a judicial official.

Vance said her ministry constantly investigates the locations of these unlicensed centers where patients, in some cases confined there by their own familes, live in deplorable conditions.

She urged people to avoid committing family members to these centers without submitting them first to medical evaluations.

She said that addiction treatment is part of the state healthcare system and that for extreme cases there are 17 clinics around the country supervised by the Public Health Ministry.

Freed during the operation on Thursday was a minor who said "he was tortured with electric shocks to 'cure' his behavior problem."

Last July the Ecuadorian government exposed the existence of a network of underground rehab clinics for addictions and homosexuality that often tortured patients and left two people dead over the past year. EFE