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More Detainees Claim Quran Abuse

Released prisoners smile as they leave from Kot Lakput, a prison, in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday, June 27, 2005. Authorities released 17 men who had been freed from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba only to be detained on their return home, an official said. (AP Photo/K M Chaudhry)
AP
Pakistanis freed from Guantanamo Bay claimed they saw American interrogators throw, tear and stand on copies of Islam's holy book, and one former detainee said naked women sat on prisoners' chests during questioning.

The Pentagon denied the accusations and said al Qaeda training manuals instruct prisoners to make such false charges.

The men acknowledged that they were aware of the international furor caused by previous reports about Quran desecrations. Such reports triggered protests across the Islamic world and deadly riots in Afghanistan last month.

Seventeen Pakistanis were freed Monday from a jail in this eastern city, where they had been held since their release nine months ago from the U.S. prison for terror in Cuba. A Pakistani official said each had been "declared innocent by America" and cleared of involvement in terrorism by Pakistani intelligence.

The claims of the men, who spoke to reporters after joyful family reunions outside the jail in Lahore, could not be confirmed independently. The Associated Press briefly interviewed six of the men separately, sometimes interrupted by Pakistani officials who appeared anxious to keep the men from making the allegations.

All six said they were arrested in Afghanistan after going there to fight the U.S.-led coalition that ousted the hard-line Taliban regime in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.

"During interrogation, whenever I would make a reference to the Quran they would hit me in the face with a copy (of it). They would tear it into pieces. They would tell me that Quran teaches us terrorism," said Salahuddin Ayubi, a 31-year-old from Rajanpur in eastern Pakistan.

"They would throw the Quran against the roof, which would tear it into pieces and they would say 'This is the real source of terrorism,"' Ayubi said. "This happened several times in my interrogation."

Hafiz Ahsan, a 26-year-old Lahore tailor who said he was arrested three years ago in southern Afghanistan during the "jihad" against America — claimed he saw interrogators stand on the Quran and throw the book in urine.

"Our interrogators would stand on the Quran and they would ask, 'Call your God and ask him to rescue you,"' he said. "They would throw Quran in a bucket of urine. They would tear the Quran and throw it at our faces. All this happened in front of our eyes. It was a routine."

He claimed inmates staged a hunger strike in protest, and were then tortured with electric shocks.

Also, a Russian formerly held at Guantanamo Bay said Tuesday that soldiers there regularly desecrated the Quran by putting it in a toilet.

"In Cuba, they used to throw the Quran in the toilet bowl. This happened regularly and was intended to provoke us," Airat Vakhitov said at a news conference.

Vakhitov is one of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo in March 2004 and returned to Russia. He and the six others were held in Russia for three months, then released last June.