Guantánamo prisoners told FBI of Koran desecration in 2002
May 26, 2005: New documents released by the FBI include previously undisclosed interviews
in which prisoners at Guantánamo complain that guards have mistreated the
Koran, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. In one 2002 summary,
an FBI interrogator notes a prisoner’s allegation that guards flushed a
Koran down the toilet.
The disclosure comes on the heels of controversy over a Newsweek report
saying that government investigators had corroborated an almost identical
incident. Newsweek ultimately retracted its story because a confidential
government source could not be confirmed.
"The United States government continues to turn a blind eye to mounting
evidence of widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody," said ACLU
Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "If we are to truly repair America's
standing in the world, the Bush Administration must hold accountable
high-ranking officials who allow the continuing abuse and torture of
According to the FBI documents, a detainee interviewed in August 2002 said
that guards had flushed the Koran in the toilet. Others reported the Koran
being kicked, withheld as punishment, and thrown on the floor, and said they
were mocked during prayers.
The release of the FBI interviews follows the disclosure last week of
Defense Department documents regarding other cases in which military
personnel mistreated the Koran and used a religious symbol to taunt
In the documents released today, one detainee informs his FBI interviewers
that using the Koran "as a reprisal or as an incentive for cooperation has
failed," and that the only result would be "the damage caused to the
reputation of the United States once what had occurred was released to the
world." While another detainee acknowledged that there might be "a
legitimate need to search the book for hidden items," he objected to the
abusive manner in which the searches were conducted.
"The United States government’s own documents show that it has known of
numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time,"
said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
"Its failure to address these allegations in a timely manner raises grave
questions regarding the extent to which such desecration was authorized by
high-ranking U.S. officials in the first place."
In addition to complaints about treatment of the Koran, the latest documents
include reports of:
On August 23, 2002, a detainee told an interviewer of being "kicked in the
stomach and back by several individuals" after being turned over to U.S.
authorities. On one occasion during prayer time, a soldier placed his foot
on [his] head and sat on his head." Another interviewer was told on August
28, 2002 of a detainee being "kicked violently in the jaw" after he tripped
and fell while handcuffed.
Several detainees spoke of suicidal thoughts while in custody. In December
2002, one reported that "40-50 detainees intended to commit suicide after
Ramadan ended because they were tired of being detained with no prospect of
being released and they were tired of being mistreated by guards."
An interviewer noted that the "mental condition of the detainees is to the
point where the detainees are participating in a hunger strike. [They] are
upset with the way they are treated by the guards." One man had not eaten in
six days or changed his clothes and "insisted on being charged with a crime
In April 2003, a detainee told interviewers that a female guard fondled his
genitals while male guards held him down. She told him that she was having
her menstrual period and "she wiped blood from her body on his face and
head." (A similar incident is described in a recently released book by
former Guantánamo interrogator Erik Saar.)
The FBI released the documents last week in response to a federal court
order that directed the FBI and other government agencies to comply with a
request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center
for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common
Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is
co-counsel in the case.
To date, more than 35,000 pages of government documents have been released
in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has
been posting these documents online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia. The
documents released this week are online at http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/052505/
Tomorrow, the ACLU will return to court to argue that Defense Department and
CIA are unlawfully withholding documents concerning abuse and torture of
The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of
the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger &
Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and
Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur N. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the
NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
BY A CORRESPONDENT