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 Thursday, May 26, 2005

Desecration of the Koran: The FBI Knew About It in 2002

  Read here full article by Neil Lewis in New York Times and HERE

May 26, 2005

Edited article

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The Koran desecrated at Guantanamo Detention Center

Documents released yesterday by the FBI include previously undisclosed interviews with prisoners who described incidents of abuse, including a 2002 allegation that guards flushed a Koran down a toilet.

Detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet, according to newly released documents.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero,said:
"The United States government continues to turn a blind eye to mounting evidence of widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody."
The prisoners' accounts are described by the agents in detailed summaries of interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003.

The documents were among more than 300 pages turned over by the F.B.I. to the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days and publicly disclosed Wednesday.

The new documents do not say the F.B.I. agents witnessed the episodes themselves.

Rather, they are accounts of unsubstantiated accusations made by the prisoners during interrogation.

The accusation that soldiers had put a Koran in a toilet, which has been made by former and current inmates over the past two years, stirred violence this month that killed at least 17 people in Muslim countries after Newsweek magazine reported that a military investigation was expected to confirm that the incident had in fact occurred.

Newsweek retracted the report last week, saying it had relied on an American government official who had incomplete knowledge of the situation.

One released document is an Aug. 1, 2002, memorandum from an agent (whose name is deleted) that recounts a pair of interviews the previous month with a prisoner (whose name is also deleted.)

The FBI agent wrote that the prisoner said "the guards in the detention facility do NOT treat him well. The prison had said:

"Their behavior is bad.

About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees.

They flushed a Koran in the toilet. The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray.

The guards still do these things."

The document does not indicate whether the agent believed the account.

The documents include several other accounts of detainees' complaints about disrespectful handling of the Koran.

Bryan Whitman, the deputy Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday the source of the accusation "is an enemy combatant."

A former interrogator told The New York Times in a recent interview that friction over handling of the Koran began with guards' regular searches of the cells. "Some of it was just ignorance," the former interrogator said, insisting on anonymity because soldiers are barred from discussing camp operations. "They didn't realize you shouldn't handle the book roughly."

The new documents and 30,000 pages previously released were disclosed as part of a suit brought by the A.C.L.U. and other groups trying to learn whether and what kinds of coercive tactics were used at Guantánamo.

Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project was quoted on ACLU website as saying :
"The United States government's own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time.

Its failure to address these allegations in a timely manner raises grave questions regarding the extent to which such desecration was authorized by high- ranking U.S. officials in the first place."

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