Militants Display Pictures of Torn Korans

The militant Islamic Jihad (search) on Wednesday presented pictures of torn copies of the Islamic holy book, the Koran (search), claimed they were taken inside an Israeli prison and said soldiers were responsible for the desecration. Israel denied the charge and said the pictures were a fabrication.

The Islamic Jihad transmitted the pictures by e-mail to a reporter in the West Bank. They show two Korans with torn pages. The militants said prisoners took the pictures with cellular telephones sent them electronically to militant leaders.

The militants said Wednesday that soldiers desecrated six or seven Korans as they searched Palestinian prisoners' cells at the Megiddo jail in northern Israel early Tuesday. The prisoners were outside the cells at the time but could see what was going on, the Islamic Jihad militants said.

The charges closely followed a report in Newsweek — later retracted — that American soldiers flushed a Koran down the toilet at the Guantanamo Bay (search) prison in Cuba. The report set off deadly riots in the Muslim world.

The Pentagon later issued a report of its own in which the military acknowledged five instances of mistreatment of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.

The charges against Israeli soldiers originally surfaced on Tuesday, when prisoners charged that soldiers tore three Korans and stepped on them. In a later version, they said soldiers ripped pages out of one Koran.

The Israeli Prisons Authority had its own conflicting versions on Tuesday as well. At first, a spokesman said that as a soldier searched an old Koran, pages fell from it, and he put them back.

Later that day, the authority showed reporters the book they said was at the center of the affair. The pages that were replaced were larger than those in the rest of the book, and the Prisons Authority concluded the whole matter was a fabrication by the Palestinian prisoners.

On Wednesday, Prisons Authority official Orit Stelser said the pictures and new charges were fabricated.

During the search on Tuesday morning, soldiers confiscated dozens of cellular phones, forbidden among the prisoners. Stelser said it was unlikely that there were many left behind to take such pictures.

"They have staged things like this in the past," she said. "This is staged." She noted the early, conflicting stories and said, "If there were really torn Korans, they would have presented them then. There are no more books, period."

The pictures transmitted Wednesday showed Korans with several pages torn in the middle. It was impossible to tell from the pictures themselves where they were taken or when.