US admits soldiers kicked Koran


WASHINGTON, JUNE 4: The US released details on Friday about five confirmed cases of US personnel mishandling the Koran at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, acknowledging that soldiers kicked the holy book, got copies wet, stood on it during interrogation and inadvertently sprayed urine on a copy.

Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, who completed the three-week inquiry this week into alleged mishandling of the Koran, confirmed five cases of intentional or unintentional mishandling of the holy book, from among 19 alleged incidents since the facility opened in January 2002.

His investigation also found 15 incidents of detainees desecrating Korans. In a news release from the US Southern Command late on Friday, Hood expanded on statements he made at a Pentagon news briefing last week, when he characterised the incidents as rare.

A case of mishandling was documented on March 25, 2005 when a detainee complained to guards that urine came through an air vent in his cell and ‘‘splashed on him and his Koran while he laid near the air vent.’’

Officials said they have issued more than 1,600 Korans at the facility. ‘‘Mishandling a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence,’’ Hood said in the statement. ‘‘Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned. When one considers the many thousands of times detainees have been moved and cells have been searched since detention operations first began here in January 2002, I think one can only conclude that respect for detainee religious beliefs was embedded in the culture of (the task force).’’

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said ‘‘our men and women in the military adhere to the highest standards, including when it comes to respecting and protecting religious freedom.’’

Tom Wilner, an attorney for 11 Kuwaiti nationals being held there, said the persistence of reports of Koran abuse indicate a much broader problem than indicated by the Hood inquiry. ‘‘I think there’s no question that, especially in the early days of Guantanamo, there was a persistent pattern of physical abuse and religious discrimination... But it hasn’t been fully looked at.’’

Hood’s inquiry found that allegations that a Koran was flushed down a toilet were false. Newsweek reported such an allegation had been confirmed but then retracted the story. —LAT-WP

Amnesty defends its chiding of US

LONDON: An Amnesty International official said on Friday that the choice of the term ‘gulag’ in its annual report to describe the US prison camp at Guantanamo was deliberate and shrugged off criticism of the report by the Bush administration. The official, Kate Gilmore, said the response was ‘‘typical of a government on the defensive’’. —NYT


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