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Britons formerly held in US camps allege they saw guards desecrate Koran

AFP | May 18, 2005

LONDON - Several Britons who had been held at US military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba alleged Monday that they had seen their US guards desecrate the Koran.

Former prisoners Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi and Jamal al-Harith alleged on the Islamic human rights website Cageprisoners.com that the Muslim holy book had been profaned.

Their statements appeared after clashes erupted in Muslim countries over a Newsweek magazine report that US interrogators at Guantanamo had defiled copies of the Koran by leaving them in toilet cubicles and flushing one down a toilet.

Newsweek, while acknowledging parts of its May 2 article could be wrong, has not issued a retraction.

On the website, Begg said "I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qurans (Korans) in an area used as a latrine" during his detention in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002.

"As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a (Koran) was snatched from a captive's hands and thrown to the ground," said Begg who was freed without charge from Guantanamo in January.

Begg told Britain's Press Association "If (Newsweek) are retracting it, it is really silly. So many people are saying exactly the same thing."

Abassi meanwhile told of inmates having Korans taken from them and described an interpreter slapping the book, saying "Why do you want to pass this s around?"

He added: "I swear by Allah! I witnessed this clearly, not 10 metres away from me, with my own eyes and ears."

None of the prisoners said they actually witnessed Korans thrown into toilets at Guantanamo, though they said it had happened.

Harith alleged that the "US has desecrated the Koran on a number of occasions" and "numerous" hunger strikes in Guantanamo's Camp Delta were sparked by a guard who threw a Koran into the toilet.

"When searching our cages the guards would sometimes throw the (Koran) onto the floor," said Harith who was freed without charge from Guantanamo last year. "During interrogation, an interrogator jumped up and down on the Quran (Koran) and taunted a prisoner."

He added that in "Afghanistan, in the American concentration camps, a (Koran) was thrown in a waste bucket by a guard."

Cageprisoners.com spokesman Adnan Siddiqui said "it should be clear to any thinking person that all these detainees could not have colluded, especially since some were in solitary confinement for their duration in Guantanamo Bay."

He added that "the US is guilty of a systematic and horrific assault on Islam and the religious beliefs and practices of a fifth of humanity in their so-called 'war on terror'.

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