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American Forces Press Service

Pentagon Official Debunks Koran Desecration Story

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2005 A Newsweek magazine article accusing U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of desecrating a Koran has no basis in fact, a senior Defense Department official said here today.

"We've certainly found nothing that would give any substance to the Newsweek story," Lawrence Di Rita, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told reporters today at a Pentagon news conference.

A Newsweek story published May 9 reported that American military interrogators at the Guantanamo prison facility had flushed a Koran, the Muslim holy book, down a toilet. The article sparked deadly anti-U.S. riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

The magazine's editor has since apologized for the gaffe, and the article has been retracted.

Di Rita emphasized that standard operating procedures at Guantanamo "are very focused on the proper respect for the Koran." Those procedures, he noted, have been reviewed periodically to ensure that detainees can practice their faith and religious items like the Koran are treated with respect.

U.S. Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the Guantanamo facility, is conducting a review of the prison's rules and regulations, Di Rita noted.

Di Rita said the practices in place at Guantamano are believed to be appropriate ones, but added, "there's always an opportunity to learn, and we'll try to do that."

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