Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Guantanamo Koran search prompted clash, inmate says

CONFLICTING REPORTS US officials had earlier said a violent clash last month occurred after prisoners faked a suicide and attacked 10 guards

AP , SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

A Guantanamo Bay detainee who participated in a clash with US military guards last month said that it was sparked when guards tried to search prisoners' Korans, contradicting the military's account of the confrontation, his defense attorney said on Wednesday.

The detainee also denied prisoners in the May 18 clash in Guantanamo Bay lured guards into a cell by staging a suicide attempt, defense attorney Kristin Wilhelm said.

Military's account

Military officials have maintained that the detainees did lure the guards into a cell by having one of the prisoners pretend to hang himself.

The military, in its account soon after the clash occurred at the prison in southeast Cuba, said that 10 prisoners used makeshift weapons to battle 10 guards.

It was one of the most violent incidents at Guantanamo Bay, where the US is holding about 460 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Wilhelm said the detainee, a Yemeni whom she could not further identify because of Pentagon rules, told her the guards demanded that prisoners turn over their Korans so they could be searched for hoarded medicine, which the military said had been used in two suicide attempts earlier in the day elsewhere at the prison camp.

One detainee offered to collect the Korans and search them in front of the guards, but the military guards refused and entered the cell block, setting off the fight, she said.

She said the prisoners used only a floor lamp against the guards and that it quickly ended when one detainee succumbed to pepper spray used by military police.

"There was no mention of a suicide attempt and there was no mention of luring a guard into the cell block," the attorney said of her conversations with her detainee client.

Declassified

Wilhelm and another lawyer from her firm, John Chandler, met the detainee on May 26. Their notes from the meeting were declassified by the military on Wednesday.

Their firm represents five prisoners from Yemen.

Wilhelm and Chandler were among the first defense lawyers to visit the Guantanamo prison after the May 18 clash and provided the first detainee account of the incident.

Navy Commander Robert Durand, a base spokesman, said that he would respond "soon" to the detainee's allegations. Durand earlier said that officials from the military's Joint-Detention Task Force and an interagency task force were conducting an internal review of the incident.

Former detainees at Guantanamo have alleged in the past that military personnel at Guantanamo have desecrated the Koran by stepping on the book and throwing it into a toilet.

US military officials that said no Guantanamo Bay guard had tossed a detainee's Koran into a toilet, but acknowledged there were instances in which Korans were abused by guards, intentionally or accidentally.

US officials have said that all troops at the prison are instructed to handle the Koran with respect.

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