Defense Department Report, May 26: Quran Treatment
26 May 2005
Initial inquiry finds no credible evidence Muslim holy book was desecrated
The U.S. commander of forces in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says a preliminary investigation has found “no credible evidence” that any military service member there ever flushed a Quran down the toilet.
Army Brigadier General Jay Hood told reporters at the Pentagon May 26 that his information is based on a 12-day preliminary investigation drawing upon a review of 31,000 electronic and paper documents covering a three-year period.
He said the detainee who was the source of the original Quran allegation was interviewed, and that unidentified individual said he did not see the Quran defiled or desecrated. Detainees who are being held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo are considered to be enemy combatants as part of the War on Terrorism.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, who also participated in the briefing, said the allegation of Quran desecration, which appeared in second-hand reporting by the FBI, was based on hearsay. Hood said there is no eyewitness to any Quran desecration. Di Rita said there is nothing to investigate regarding the toilet allegation because “there is no there, there.”
Hood said he has identified some cases of inadvertent mishandling of the Quran, which in at least one case has resulted in disciplinary action. Di Rita, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said one instance of this might have been accidentally knocking the Quran to the ground.
Di Rita said policies were established at Guantanamo to ensure that the Quran was handled cautiously and with respect, and when any inadvertent mishandling occurred corrective steps were taken. The atmosphere at Guantanamo, he said, is one that shows great respect for the detainees’ Islamic faith.
Hood, who is commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said soldiers under his jurisdiction are committed to respecting the Quran and every effort has been made to accommodate detainees' need to pray and to receive suitable meals.
Hood said there is nothing he has seen to suggest any specific pattern in the handful of cases that Di Rita described as inadvertent mishandling; four cases involved guards and one related to an interrogator. He indicated that one case involved placing two Qurans atop a television set.
The commander’s inquiry continues with the examination of notes filed by lawyers for the detainees and press accounts about Quran desecration.
Hood pointed out that one detainee actually mishandled the Quran, himself, by ripping pages from it.
Di Rita said the standard operating procedures that are in place in Guantanamo provide the Defense Department with considerable confidence that the whole issue is being handle with “a great deal of caution.”
Hood said allegations that are brought forward are investigated and result in the examination of operating procedures. If activities are improper, he said, corrective action is taken, including “punishment if somebody has willfully done something they’re not supposed to do; or retraining if we’ve had somebody do something they didn’t fully comprehend.”
The final results of the inquiry will be released to the public when Hood’s work is completed.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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