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FBI records: Detainees allege Quran abuse

ACLU releases hundreds of documents obtained in lawsuit


• Newsweek changes policy
• Clerics threaten holy war
• U.N. condemns alleged abuse
• Anti-U.S. protests leave 3 dead
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, alleged in 2002 that guards mistreated the Quran, according to some of the hundreds of FBI documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU obtained the documents from the FBI through a federal court order in a lawsuit based on a Freedom of Information Act request. Most of them are records of detainee interviews with FBI agents.

According to the documents, released Wednesday by the ACLU, a detainee interviewed in August 2002 said guards had flushed a copy of the Quran in a toilet.

Others reported the Quran being kicked, withheld as punishment and thrown on the floor.

Prisoners also complained about "non-believers" touching the book, according to the documents.

A senior Pentagon official said Wednesday that on May 14 camp officials re-interviewed the detainee who made the flushing claim and he failed to substantiate it.

The senior official also denied allegations by detainees that interrogators desecrated Qurans to intimidate them.

FBI officials said the documents released Wednesday merely reflect allegations made by individuals interviewed by the FBI.

The FBI did not investigate the allegations and said that would be the responsibility of the Defense Department.

In addition to complaints about the treatment of the Quran, detainees told FBI agents about alleged beatings, planned suicides, hunger strikes and sexual assaults, according to the documents.

"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 Romero in a news release.

"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 detainees."

The ACLU said it made the Freedom of Information Act request in October 2003 and filed a lawsuit in June 2004 demanding the government comply.

The group said that so far more than 35,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the FOIA lawsuit.

But it contends the Pentagon and CIA continue to "unlawfully" withhold "documents concerning abuse and torture of prisoners" and said it will go back to federal court to argue that position.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Wednesday that past accusations have had credibility issues.

"There have been allegations made by detainees," McClellan said. "We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports.

"We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind as well."

Pentagon review

Last week, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, during an extensive answer about abuse allegations, said the Defense Department was reviewing how U.S. troops handle the Quran.

"There have been instances, and we'll have more to say about it as we learn more, but where a Quran may have fallen to the floor in the course of searching a cell," Di Rita told reporters.

"So they've reviewed the standard operating procedures to see if perhaps we could have been more careful in those cases."

"The [U.S.] philosophy as reflected in the standard operating procedures is one of great respect for the Quran and other religious articles, and for the detainees' practice of their faith, and that's what we're doing," he said.

A recent Newsweek magazine article alleged that U.S. investigators concluded that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Quran, in one instance by flushing the Muslim holy book down a toilet.

Newsweek subsequently retracted the report, saying its government source had indicated doubts about his information after publication. (Full story)

The Bush administration blamed the report, at least in part, for deadly violence that erupted in early May, when thousands of demonstrators marched in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world.

But some U.S. and Newsweek officials said the magazine article was not to blame for the violence.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said this week during a trip to the United States the protests were "directed at the peace process" and the "elections in Afghanistan." (Full story)

On May 13, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited a U.S. commander as saying the protests in Jalalabad, at least, were more about local politics than anti-American sentiment stirred up by the Newsweek report.

Other allegations

The International Committee of the Red Cross said last week it had gathered "credible" reports about U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay disrespecting the Quran and had raised the issue with the Pentagon several times.

Group spokesman Simon Schorno said the allegations were made by detainees to Red Cross representatives who visited the detention facility throughout 2002 and 2003. (Full story)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said then that the Pentagon in 2003 issued strict guidelines on how U.S. personnel should handle the Quran.

Schorno said the Red Cross heard no more allegations about mishandling of the Quran after the guidelines were issued.

Also Wednesday, Amnesty International criticized the United States in its annual report on human rights, calling on foreign governments to investigate President Bush and members of his administration. (Full story)

The London, England-based group detailed claims of alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The naval base at Guantanamo Bay houses 520 detainees, according to the Department of Defense Web site.

CNN's Kelli Arena, Justine Redman and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

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