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US admits Quran abuse

Washington, June 4 (Reuters): The US military for the first time today detailed how jailers at Guantanamo mishandled the Quran, including a case in which a guard’s urine splashed through a vent onto the Islamic holy book and others in which it was kicked, stepped on and soaked in water.

US Southern Command, responsible for the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, described five cases of “mishandling” of a Quran by US personnel confirmed by a newly completed military inquiry, officials said in a statement.

In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his observation post, went outside and urinated near an air vent, and “the wind blew his urine through the vent” and into a cell block.

It said a detainee told guards the urine “splashed on him and his Quran.” The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Quran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners. Captain John Adams, a spokesman at Guantanamo, said the inquiry deemed the incident “accidental.”

Southern Command said a civilian interrogator apologised in July 2003 to a detainee for stepping on his Quran. The interrogator “was later terminated for a pattern of unacceptable behaviour, an inability to follow direct guidance and poor leadership,” the statement said.

In August 2003, prisoners’ Qurans became wet when night-shift guards threw water balloons in a cell block, the statement said. In February 2002, guards kicked a prisoner’s Quran, it added.

In the fifth confirmed incident of mishandling a Quran, Southern Command said a prisoner in August 2003 complained that “a two-word obscenity” had been written in English in his Quran.

Southern Command said it was “possible” a guard had written the words but “equally possible” the prisoner himself had done it. It did not offer an explanation of the detainee’s possible motive.

“Mishandling a Quran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence. Mishandling of a Quran here is never condoned,” Brigadier General Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo prison who headed the inquiry, said in the statement released after business hours last night.

Hood disclosed on May 26 that the inquiry, announced May 11, had turned up five cases of “mishandling of a Quran” by US personnel at Guantanamo, but declined at the time to describe the incidents other than saying they did not involve flushing one down a toilet.

Southern Command launched the inquiry after a May 9 Newsweek article, later retracted by the magazine, that stated US interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Quran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk.

Violent protests erupted in some Muslim countries following the article's publication and at least 16 people died in rioting in Afghanistan.

In the statement, Hood reiterated that the inquiry found ”no credible evidence” that a member of the military joint task force at Guantanamo ever flushed a Quran down a toilet.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, said Southern Command’s policy on proper handling of the Quran was “serious, respectful and appropriate.”

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