Russian Alleges Gitmo Koran Desecration

A Russian formerly held at Guantanamo Bay (search) prison said Tuesday that U.S. guards there regularly desecrated the Koran by putting it into a toilet.

"In Cuba, they used to throw the Koran 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 2004 and returned to Russia. He and the six others were held in Russia for three months, then released a year ago.

Vakhitov said he previously had been held by U.S. forces at Kandahar in Afghanistan (search), where many detainees were held before being sent to Guantanamo, and that he also saw Koran desecration there.

"In Kandahar, they tore up copies of the Koran and even put it in a bucket of feces," he said.

Vakhitov also said detainees were abused through sleep deprivation.

"We would be made to be in a special investigative room where we would be handcuffed to the floor and then would be prevented from falling asleep by the playing of loud music, shining bright lights and so on. There was one program in which we would be moved from one cell to another every 15 minutes continually over a period of three or four months," he said.

He also claimed that forces used unspecified gas and once allowed dogs to attack prisoners.

Russian news reports have identified Vakhitov as the onetime imam of a mosque in Tatarstan, a majority-Muslim republic in southern Russia.

In May, Newsweek magazine published — and later retracted — a story that claimed interrogators at Guantanamo flushed the Muslim holy book down a toilet.

The Bush administration blamed the report for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan and protests throughout the Middle East. A Pentagon investigation later disclosed five instances of U.S. guards' mishandling the Koran, including incidents in which one copy of the book was splashed with urine and another was stepped on.

On Monday, several Pakistanis released from Guantanamo claimed they saw American interrogators throw, tear and stand on copies of Islam's holy book; one of those former detainees said naked women sat on prisoners' chests during questioning.

The Pentagon denied the Pakistanis' accusations and said Al Qaeda (search) training manuals instruct prisoners to make such false charges.

The United States opened the prison on the base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to house foreigners believed to be linked to Al Qaeda or the ousted Taliban (search) in Afghanistan. U.S. officials hoped to gather intelligence from the detainees after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

An estimated 540 detainees — most of them captured during battles in Afghanistan — are being held at Guantanamo.