[Ppnews] Guantanamo Russian Says Soldiers Desecrated Koran

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Tue Jun 28 11:55:12 EDT 2005

Tue 28 Jun 2005
4:29pm (UK)
Guantanamo Russian Says Soldiers Desecrated Koran

A Muslim cleric from Russia, formerly held at Guantanamo Bay claimed today 
that soldiers there regularly desecrated the Koran by putting it in a 
toilet, but later said he had not witnessed the actions himself.

In Cuba, they used to throw the Koran in the toilet bowl. This happened 
regularly and was intended to provoke us,” Airat Vakhitov said at a news 
conference. However, he later said that he had not personally seen this done.

“A Palestinian named Mahir, who was in a neighbouring cell, had seen it and 
told me about that,” Vakhitov, 28 said. “Many other people in Guantanamo 
also told me about that.”

Vakhitov said he previously had been held by US forces at Kandahar in 
Afghanistan, where many detainees were held before being sent to 
Guantanamo, and that he personally saw Koran desecration there.

“In Kandahar, they tore up copies of the Koran and even put it in a bucket 
of faeces,” he said.

Vakhitov is one of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo in 
March 2004. They were all held in Russia for three months before being 
released last June.

His claims came a day after several Pakistanis released from Guantanamo 
claimed they saw American interrogators throw, tear and stand on copies of 
Islam’s holy book; one of those former detainees said naked women sat on 
prisoners’ chests during questioning.

The Pentagon denied the Pakistanis’ accusations and said al Qaida training 
manuals instruct prisoners to make such false charges. Previous reports 
about Koran desecrations have provoked an international furore, including 
protests across the Islamic world and deadly riots in Afghanistan last month.

In May, Newsweek magazine published – and later retracted – a story that 
claimed interrogators at Guantanamo flushed the Muslim holy book down a 
toilet. A Pentagon investigation later disclosed five instances of US 
guards’ mishandling the Koran, including incidents in which one copy of the 
book was splashed with urine and another was stepped on.

Vakhitov said that the desecration was apparently intended to provoke 
protests among inmates.

“There were mass protests in Guantanamo,” he said. “During the summer of 
2003, about 300 people went on a hunger strike there because of the 
desecration of the Koran.”

Vakhitov also said detainees were abused through sleep deprivation and 
other tortures.

“They would place a person in an investigative room and keep him there for 
several days handcuffed to the floor and prevent him from falling asleep by 
the playing of loud music, shining bright lights and so on,” he said.

“There was one programme in which a person would be moved from one cell to 
another every 15 minutes continually over a period of three or four 
months,” he said. “A person wouldn’t get a normal sleep for three or four 

He also claimed US forces used unspecified gas and once had dogs attack 

A US Embassy spokesman in Moscow said the embassy had no information about 
Vakhitov’s claims.

Vakhitov said many prisoners who ended up in Guantanamo had been bought by 
US forces from their Afghan allies. Many were tourists, humanitarian 
workers or just vagabonds, he said.

“Afghanistan’s interim authorities have launched a big hunt on foreigners, 
who were sold to the US military,” Vakhitov said. “Americans were buying 
people at a fixed price – US5,000 dollars (£2,700) per head – and there was 
a higher price for Arabs.”

Vakhitov, from Russia’s Muslim-majority province of Tatarstan, said he was 
an imam in a mosque in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny, but that he was 
never a member of a radical Islamic movement.

He said he travelled to Chechnya in 1998 where he had been put in jail by 
Chechen separatist rebels and then – following his escape – by Russian 
forces on suspicion of spying for the other side.

He said he later moved to the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan bordering 
Afghanistan to avoid persecution, where he claimed he was kidnapped by 
members of the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, affiliated with al 
Qaida, and taken to Afghanistan in 2000 where he was held by the IMU and 
the Taliban until the Taliban’s defeat when he was sold to the Americans.

Vakhitov said he suffered torture and other abuses in the hands of Russian 
security services. At one moment, Russian officers told him to get on his 
knees and say a Christian prayer. When he refused, he said, they beat him 
and burned his back with cigarette butts.

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