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Guantanamo detainees back Koran abuse claims
British former detainees at Guantanamo Bay have backed disputed claims that US interrogators abused the Koran in a "systematic and horrific assault on Islam".
Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Jamal al Harith and Tarek Dergoul allege that jailers defiled the Muslim holy book at US military bases in Cuba and Afghanistan.
A report said a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay was prompted after a guard allegedly stamped on the Koran, and includes details on how the sacred tome was put in toilet buckets, stamped on, shredded and belittled.
Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story earlier this month alleging desecration by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, saying it would re-examine the accusations, which sparked outrage and deadly protests in Afghanistan.
'Koran torn up'
But in his testimony to Islamic human rights website Cageprisoners.com, Mr Begg, from Birmingham, who was among the final group of five UK nationals released from the military base earlier this year, said it was "widely known" that a US Marine had torn up a copy of the Koran and thrown it into a toilet bucket in Kandahar.
He adds: "In Bagram, that same year (2002), I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qurans (Korans) in an area used as a latrine.
"As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a Quran (Koran) was snatched from a captive's hands and thrown to the ground.
"When distributing the Qurans (Korans) to detainees, I remember clearly that one guard went around shoving them through the cages, singing out in a newspaper-boy style, 'Extra, Extra! Come get your Quran (Koran) - your holiest of Holy Books. Learn how to kill Americans!'."
Newsweek magazine has backpedalled on the story "and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst".
But Mr Begg told the Press Association: "If they (Newsweek) are retracting it, it is really silly. So many people are saying exactly the same thing. What is odd to me is that the story came out now, even though it has been detailed well before."
A statement from fellow former detainee Mr Abbasi, from Croydon, tells of inmates having Korans taken from them and described an interpreter slapping the book, saying "Why do you want to pass this s*** around?"
He adds: "I swear by Allah! I witnessed this clearly, not 10 metres away from me, with my own eyes and ears."
And Mr al Harith, a father of three from Manchester, who has previously claimed religious men were humiliated by prostitutes and accused the military of psychological torture, stated "the US has desecrated the Koran on a number of occasions" and "numerous" hunger strikes in Camp Delta were sparked by a guard who threw the Koran into the toilet.
He adds: "When searching our cages the guards would sometimes throw the Quran (Koran) on to the floor.
"During interrogation, an interrogator jumped up and down on the Quran (Koran) and taunted a prisoner.
"In Afghanistan, in the American concentration camps, a Quran (Koran) was thrown in a waste bucket by a guard.
"They don't just desecrate the Quran (Koran) but act arrogant with it."
'Detainees could not have colluded'
The document, Report Into The Systematic And Institutionalised US Desecration Of The Quran (Koran) And Other Islamic Rituals, also contains claims that Muslim rituals were derided.
Cageprisoners.com spokesman Dr Adnan Siddiqui said: "It should be clear to any thinking person that all these detainees could not have colluded, especially since some were in solitary confinement for their duration in Guantanamo Bay; and the US is guilty of a systematic and horrific assault on Islam and the religious beliefs and practices of a fifth of humanity in their so-called 'war on terror'.
"The prolonged period of the abuse, from the beginning to the end of their detention, clearly shows that it is institutionalised and authorised by the chain of command headed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush."
Islamic groups in at least five countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe will hold rallies later this month to protest at the alleged desecration in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, alongside Martin Mubanga from Wembley, north-west London, and Richard Belmar, from St John's Wood, north-west London, were released without charge in January this year, having been returned to the UK after up to three years in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr al Harith and Mr Dergoul, a former care worker from Bethnal Green, east London, were released without charge last year after landing back in Britain, together with Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed.