Freed Gitmo Detainee Tells Of Desecration

Mohamed Lemine Ould Sidi Mohamed, right, who spent nearly five years incarcerated at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, sits with a relative in his family home in Nouakchott, Mauritania Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007, a day after his release. Mohamed was returned to Mauritania on Sept. 26 after being cleared for release by a U.S. military review panel, and Mauritanian authorities released him Tuesday. Mohamed on Friday accused American soldiers of desecrating the Quran by urinating and stepping on it. (AP Photo/Ahmed Mohamed)
AP Photo/Ahmed Mohamed
A Mauritanian man who spent nearly five years incarcerated at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay on Friday accused American soldiers of desecrating the Quran by urinating and stepping on it.

Though never tortured himself, Mohamed Lemine Ould Sidi Mohamed compared his detention to torture, telling The Associated Press in an interview: "Humiliating words against religion and against Muslims were a kind of currency they used every day."

U.S. authorities handed Mohamed to Mauritania last week, and he was briefly detained here. He was released Tuesday by Mauritanian officials.

During his incarceration by the Americans, Mohamed said he witnessed the abuse of the Muslim holy book.

"The soldiers urinated on the holy Quran to humiliate us. They stepped on the holy book and told us we are a nation that does not understand civilization," Mohamed said in Mauritania's desert capital, Nouakchott.

Afterward, he and other inmates he claimed witnessed similar incidents went on a hunger strike, and U.S. officials force-fed him, he said.

The inmates decided thereafter not to take Qurans into their cells to protect the book, relying instead on memorized passages, he said.

Following media reports that sparked protests around the world, a U.S. inquiry in 2005 found nine incidents in which Guantanamo civilian and military personnel had mishandled the Quran. They also found 15 cases of abuse of the book by detainees.

In January FBI agents documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment, including one detainee whose head was allegedly wrapped in duct tape for chanting the Quran. The reports describe a female guard who detainees said handled their genitals and wiped menstrual blood on their face. Another interrogator reportedly bragged to an FBI agent about dressing as a Catholic priest and "baptizing" a prisoner.

Officials say guards are trained not to show disrespect to the Quran and are careful not to do so.

"We respect and support the detainees' right to worship," a Guantanamo spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, said Friday, adding that the military provides the men there with prayer rugs and prayer along with Qurans in multiple languages.

"Allegations from detainees is common behavior and in keeping with tactics taught to al Qaeda members through their training guide," he said.

In Mauritania, Mohamed said he did not know why he was arrested and said he had never had any connection to al Qaeda. He was returned to Mauritania on Sept. 26 after being cleared for release by a U.S. military review panel.

Mohamed said earlier this week that he had been attending an Islamic school in Pakistan when he was arrested by Pakistani police in 2002 and handed over to U.S. authorities.

"I spent five years in Guantanamo, but I don't know anyone in al Qaeda and I have no relations with those people," Mohamed said.

Mohamed said he was not abused himself at Guantanamo, but he believed others were. "Each time people were interrogated, we heard the screams caused by torture," he said.

Mauritanian police spokesman Mohamed Abdallahi said earlier in the week that police were questioning Mohamed about his life in Pakistan and his activities in that country in order to determine whether to file charges.

Two other Mauritanians remain in custody in Guantanamo. They are Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a technology engineer who was living in Germany when he was taken into custody in November, 2001 and Ahmed Ould Abdelaziz, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.

Meanwhile, it was announced this week that 55 Saudi Arabians who were released recently from Guantanamo will receive about $2,600 each to celebrate the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a Saudi newspaper reported Saturday.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has granted the ex-Guantanamo prisoners temporarily release from detention centers in Saudi Arabia to spend time with their families during the holiday later this month, the Okaz newspaper reported.

The former Guantanamo detainees will return to police custody after the holiday in mid-October and will be referred to Saudi courts at end of this month for upcoming trials, the paper said.

U.S. authorities transferred 16 Saudis from Guantanamo Bay back to Saudi Arabia in September, the latest transfer of prisoners from the U.S. detention facility. Fewer than 40 Saudi detainees remain in detention.

The detention of Saudis at the U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba has been a source of tension with Riyadh, a close U.S. ally. Three Saudis have committed suicide inside the prison camp since it opened in 2002, according to the U.S. military.

Of the 759 people who have been held at Guantanamo, 136 have been Saudis, the second-largest group behind Afghan nationals, according to Defense Department documents released to the AP.

About 340 detainees remain in Guantanamo on suspicion of links to terrorism, al Qaeda or the Taliban. Most have been held for years without being charged.

More Charges From Tribunal Officers That Guantanamo Trials Are Flawed

A second Army officer who sat on the "enemy combatant" tribunals at Guantanamo has come forward to criticize the panels, saying in court papers that the proceedings favored the government and commanders reversed some decisions.

The criticism, in an affidavit filed Friday by attorneys for a Sudanese detainee, echo some charges made in June by Army Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, the first insider to publicly fault the proceedings.

At issue are the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which the military held for 558 detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and 2005, with handcuffed detainees appearing before panels made up of three officers.

Detainees had a military "personal representative" instead of a defense attorney, and all but 38 were determined to be "enemy combatants" who could be held indefinitely without charges.

In the new affidavit, an Army officer whose name is redacted from a version provided to The Associated Press, says panels relied on insufficient evidence.

He also said in six cases the panels unanimously declared the detainee was not an enemy combatant - but commanders ordered new hearings and the finding was reversed without sufficient new evidence.