Friday, May 27, 2005

From combined dispatches

U.S. officials have found “no credible evidence” for a terrorism suspect’s charge that the Koran was flushed down a toilet, and the prison’s commander said yesterday the inmate himself said he never saw any desecrations of Islam’s holy book.

Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood said at a Pentagon news conference that the Guantanamo Bay prisoner was asked in a May 14 interview whether he had seen the Koran “defiled, desecrated or mishandled.”

The prisoner had said in a July 22, 2002, interrogation by an FBI agent, a partly redacted summary of which was made public this week, that a military guard threw the Koran into a toilet.

“He allowed as how he hadn’t, but he heard that guards at some other point in time had done this,” Gen. Hood said, adding that this accusation from the 2002 FBI report was the only one the general had found that involved a toilet.

“I’d like you to know that we have found no credible evidence that a member of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay ever flushed a Koran down a toilet,” Gen. Hood said.

The prisoner also stated that he personally had not been mistreated but that he heard fellow inmates talk of being beaten or otherwise mistreated.

Also yesterday, Gen. Hood said investigators have found at least five instances in which guards and interrogators at Guantanamo Bay mishandled Korans distributed to Muslim prisoners by their U.S. captors there.

But he acknowledged using a broad definition of “mishandle,” and added that some instances were unintentional and that none violated military procedures in place at the time.

Gen. Hood said the five cases “could be broadly defined as mishandling” of the holy book, but he refused to discuss details.

In three of the five cases, the mishandling appears to have been deliberate. In the other two, it apparently was accidental.

“None of these five incidents was a result of a failure to follow standard operating procedures in place at the time the incident occurred,” Gen. Hood said.

According to Gen. Hood, there had been 13 charges of Koran mishandling, but eight were not substantiated. Six involved guards who either accidentally touched a Koran or “touched it within the scope of his duties” or did not touch it at all.

“We consider each of these incidents resolved,” the general said.

The other two cases in which the accusation was not substantiated involved interrogators who either touched or “stood over” a Koran during an interrogation, Gen. Hood said. In one case not deemed to be mishandling, an interrogator placed two Korans on a television.

“We’ve also identified 15 incidents where detainees mishandled or inappropriately treated the Koran, one of which was, of course, the specific example of a detainee who ripped pages out of their own Koran,” he said.

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