Monday, June 27, 2005

More Koran Abuse Allegations

From AFP:

"LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) - Seventeen former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who were detained on their return home to Pakistan were freed, with many alleging they had witnessed the desecration of the Koran at the US jail.

The men came back to Pakistan around nine months ago after being cleared by US authorities. They were finally released from a Pakistani jail after promising not to take part in militant activities.

'American soldiers have been committing desecration of the holy Koran at Guantanamo,' Haifz Ehsan Saeed, 27, told AFP as he emerged from the central jail in the city of Lahore.

"There were various incidents. Once I saw them throw the Koran in a bucket full of urine and faeces," he said.

Saeed said he was arrested four years ago in Afghanistan on charges of having links with the Al-Qaeda terror network. He was kept in a jail run by brutal Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam and then shifted to Guantanamo.

'The Americans declared me innocent but yet I have been in prison for about nine months in Rawalpindi and Lahore after being released from Guantanamo Bay,' he said.

'I am not ashamed because I have not done any wrong act,' Saeed added.

Another freed prisoner, 25-year-old Muhammad Hanif, said he was tortured and his beard was forcibly shaved by the US troops at the military jail in Cuba.

'The Americans removed our beards and have been spitting over the holy book,' Hanif told AFP.

The inmates at Guantanamo Bay protested at the abuse of the Islamic holy book and went on hunger strikes, he said.

A Pakistani official said the men had been released on the orders of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

'We have released 17 prisoners after their parents and guardians furnished guarantees that they would not indulge in terrorist activities,' said Tahir Ashrafi, the provincial government's advisor on religious affairs.

Musharraf earlier this month condemned the desecration of the Koran as an 'unpardonable' act and backed calls for the punishment of those found guilty.

Frequent protest rallies were held in Pakistan after a report in Newsweek magazine in early May said Guantanamo Bay interrogators threw a Koran in a toilet to rattle Muslim inmates. Newsweek later retracted the story.

The US Defense Department, announcing the result of an investigation this month, said that overall US soldiers at the camp handled the Islamic holy book with respect.

But it said military personnel at Guantanamo Bay once kicked the Koran and a copy was sprayed with urine in another incident."

There are too many of these allegations coming from former prisoners for them to all be lies. But Bush and Cheney want you to think the prisoners at Gitmo are living it up in a tropical paradise. The Associated Press covers that story:

"Washington (AP) - Defending the treatment of prisoners at the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Vice President Dick Cheney said they are well treated, well fed and 'living in the tropics.' The Bush administration has faced allegations of inmate abuse at the jail and of unjustly detaining suspects. Amnesty International recently compared it to Soviet-era gulags, and Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress have questioned whether it should remain open.

President Bush called Amnesty's report 'absurd' and last week and publicly challenged reporters to go to Guantanamo and see for themselves that detainees were being treated humanely there.

Cheney on Thursday described prison conditions in more glowing terms, saying the United States spent heavily to build a new facility there.

'They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want,' Cheney said in a CNN interview. 'There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people.'

Asked if the detention center should be shut down and the prisoners transferred, Cheney said 'it's a vital facility' and must continue operating.

The approximately 520 remaining detainees are 'terrorists. They're bomb-makers. They're facilitators of terror. They're members of al-Qaida and the Taliban,' Cheney said. 'If you let them out, they'll go back to trying to kill Americans.'"

Cheney continuously asserts that all of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison are "terrorists...bomb-makers...facilitators of terror." And yet the 17 Pakistanis alleging Koran abuse in the AFP article were let go from Guantanamo Bay after they promised "not to take part in any militant activities." Presumably military interrogators didn't find any ties to terrorism for these prisoners or they wouldn't have let them go home.

Which brings up this point: how many prisoners at Gitmo or prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan are innocent of any terrorist activities? Very few prisoners have been charged with any crimes so far in Bush's war on terror. There have been even fewer convictions. I can understand the need to hold on to some suspects that you think are capable of terrorist activities but the problem is the Bush administration seems to want to hold on to every person they get their hands on without any discerning criterion for who they hold and why. And they refuse to allow any Congressional oversight on the overseas prison system.

Until Congress reasserts themselves on the executive branch of government, we will not learn what is truly happening in the overseas prisons nor we will get any real change in how the administration treats prisoners. Certainly we will never learn whether American military or CIA personnel have engaged in Koran abuse because this administration never, ever tells the truth unless it is forced to.

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