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Red Cross Confirms Newsweek's Allegations of Koran Abuse at Guantanamo

On May 25, The Associated Press reported, "Terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison told U.S. interrogators as early as April 2002, just three months after the first detainees arrived, that military guards abused them and desecrated the Quran, declassified F.B.I. records say. 'Their behavior is bad,' one detainee is quoted as saying of his guards during an interrogation by an F.B.I. special agent in July 2002. 'About five months ago the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Quran in the toilet.' " On May 27, A.P. added, "U.S. officials have substantiated five cases in which military guards or interrogators mishandled the Quran of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but found 'no credible evidence' to confirm a prisoner's report that a holy book was flushed in a toilet, the prison's commander [Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood] said Thursday."

The Taipei Times, Geneva, May 21, 2005

Photo: Students in Kabul burn U.S. flag in response to Newsweek story

Negative incidents involving copies of Islam's holy book, the Koran, have occurred at the U.S. military base Guantanamo on the island of Cuba, the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) reported Friday.

'There were cases of treating copies of the Koran with disrespect, prisoners held at the U.S. military base Guantanamo have told us,' a I.C.R.C. spokesman said in a broadcast by Swiss radio D.R.S.

With his comment, the spokesman confirmed earlier, similar reports by the Swiss news agency, S.D.A.

The 'incidents' occurred in the years 2002 and 2003, and the I.C.R.C. had discussed the issues with U.S. authorities, who had then implemented 'corrective measures,' the spokesman said.

According to international laws, I.C.R.C. officials are permitted to regularly visit prison camps anywhere in the world.

However, the organization usually does not inform the public about the insights gained during such visits but in most cases only the country under which jurisdiction the particular facility is operated.

The spokesman did not explain how the disrespect against the Koran had manifested itself.

On Monday, the U.S. news magazine Newsweek retracted an article [dated May 1, 2005] about an alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo [charging that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that an American interrogator at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet] after it came under pressure from the U.S. government.

The article had previously triggered violent protests in several Islamic countries.

About 550 prisoners are still detained at Guantanamo without indictment or trial, some of them since more than three years.

The detainees are suspected of terrorist activities by the U.S. government.

Most of them were arrested during the Afghanistan war led by the U.S.