Guantanamo Guards Accused of Mistreating Koran
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; 4:54 PM
Nearly a dozen detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba told FBI interrogators that guards had mistreated copies of the Koran, including one who said in 2002 that guards "flushed a Koran in the toilet," according to new FBI documents released today.
The summaries of FBI interviews, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit, also include allegations that the Koran was kicked, thrown to the floor and withheld as punishment and that guards mocked Muslim prisoners during prayers.
The release of the new FBI documents comes in the wake of an international uproar over a now-retracted story by Newsweek magazine, which reported that an internal military report had confirmed that a Koran was flushed down a toilet. The retracted story has been linked by the Bush administration to deadly riots overseas.
Nearly all of the hundreds of pages of documents consist of FBI summaries of detainee interrogations, and therefore do not generally provide corroboration of the allegations. At least two detainees also conceded that they had not personally witnessed mistreatment of the Koran but had heard about incidents from other inmates, the records show.
But the records, many of which were heavily edited by the government, further underscore the widespread nature of allegations related to the Koran and Islam among detainees at Guantanamo. Red Cross investigators in 2002 and 2003 documented what they considered reliable allegations of Koran mistreatment at the facility, and some detainees have made similar allegations through their attorneys.
A Defense Department spokesman was not immediately available for comment today. Pentagon officials have said previously that detainee allegations about the Koran have not been considered credible, although authorities have launched an internal review in the wake of the Newsweek controversy.
Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney, said in a press release that "the United States' own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time."
"The 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," Singh said.
The new documents include other allegations of questionable treatment at Guantanamo, including two reports of beatings by guards and a report that a female guard told a prisoner she was menstruating and then "wiped blood from her body on his face and head."
The latter incident, which would be considered highly offensive to a Muslim man, is similar to a claim made by Erik Saar, a former Army translator at Guantanamo who has written a book about mistreatment of detainees there. The government has said two female interrogators have been reprimanded, including one for smearing fake menstrual blood on a captive.
Following the reports of Koran mistreatment by the Red Cross and others, the Pentagon issued rules in January 2003 governing the handling of the book and forbidding its placement on the floor, near a toilet or in other "dirty/wet areas."