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Guantanamo guards mocked Islam, made jokes about Koran

Middle East Online
August 3, 2004

Guards at Guantanamo Bay prison would swear at Muslims and curse Allah and the prophet Mohammed, says British ex-detainee

LONDON - Guards at the United States's Guantanamo Bay prison mocked and cursed Islam, made jokes about the Koran and neglected to call prisoners to prayer, a freed British detainee alleged on Tuesday.

In a lengthy statement released through his lawyer, Tarek Dergoul, 26, a former care worker from London, also said that guards beat him and forced him to look at pornographic magazines.

Dergoul was one of five Britons released in March from the naval base in Cuba used to incarcerate hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters without charge.

Along with other freed Britons, Dergoul had previously alleged that prison guards beat and mistreated him, but Tuesday's statement went into far greater detail, notably with regards to claims of religious mockery.

"One interrogator grabbed the Koran with his feet up on the table and read it like he was reading a magazine. He made jokes about the Koran," the statement said, recounting one interrogation session.

"The guards would swear at Muslims and curse Allah and the prophet Mohammed," Dergoul said, adding that on several occasions he joined other inmates on hunger strike to protest at the treatment of the Koran.

Although a loudspeaker system was set up to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer five times a day as required, this was also abused, Dergoul, the son of a Moroccan baker, said in the statement.

"They would make it play five times a day, or sometimes they would not play it," he said.

"They played it at the wrong time, at times they spoke over the tannoy and mocked it with their own voices, saying 'Allah Akbar' (God is great). Sometimes they would not play it for a week."

He also spoke of having spent 15 of the 22 months he was in Guantanamo inside an isolation block for talking to other inmates and translating from Arabic to English without permission.

Also alleging beatings, including one in which he was knocked unconscious, Dergoul said interrogators routinely used intimidation.

"They threatened to send me to Morocco and Egypt, where I would be tortured. They played US music very loud during interrogations. They brought pictures of naked women and dirty magazines and put them on the floor," he said.

Dergoul's lawyer, Louise Christian, said the allegations appeared to show a culture of abuse at the centre.

"The picture which emerged from Tarek Dergoul's signed witness statement is one of a systematic regime of abuses directed and ordered by the top command and aimed at forcing detainees to make false statements in interrogations," she said.

Four British nationals remain locked up at Guantanamo, where US authorities consistently deny claims of mistreatment.

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