Newsweek: 'Never Mind' Koran Report?
The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League. On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States.
But read closely. Michael Isikoff and John Barry of Newsweek reported May 9 (Periscope Section)that a "knowledgable government source" confirmed a military report that investigators at Guantanamo flushed a Koran down the toilet in order to make a detainee provide information. Now the source is backtracking saying he couldn't be sure.
However, released detainees have made the same claims for months.
In January, British prisoners released from Guantanamo said guards threw their Korans into toilets and tried to force them to give up their faith. Human rights lawyer Tom Wilner, who represents several Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantanamo, said in February that his clients told him their Korans were thrown on the floor, stepped on and thrown into toilets at Guantanamo.
And Newsweek isn't saying the Koran-flushing incident isn't true:
Our original source later said he couldn't be certain about reading of the alleged Qur'an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts. Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we.
Evan Thomas of Newsweek reports on the mistake here.
In the meantime, as part of his ongoing reporting on the detainee-abuse story, Isikoff had contacted a New York defense lawyer, Marc Falkoff, who is representing 13 Yemeni detainees at Guantánamo. According to Falkoff's declassified notes, a mass-suicide attempt—when 23 detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves in August 2003—was triggered by a guard's dropping a Qur'an and stomping on it. One of Falkoff's clients told him, "Another detainee tried to kill himself after the guard took his Qur'an and threw it in the toilet." A U.S. military spokesman, Army Col. Brad Blackner, dismissed the claims as unbelievable.
So, was Isikoff right all along? This has caused a major media uproar in the Arab world, here's a sampling of the news articles:
- Muslims in Yemen, Arab League Voice Anger Over Quran
- Afghan Clerics Threaten Muslim Holy War Over Koran
- Malaysia Condemns Desecration of Quran
- Iran Censures Desecration of Quran at Guantanamo Bay
- Probe Into Quran Desecration Comes After One Year of Allegations
- Afghan President Urges U.S. Action Over Koran
- US Told to Act As Desecration Reports Inflame Afghan Riots
- State Department: G-Bay Rules Respect Detainees' Faith
- Lawmakers Make New Demand for Independent Probe of Prisoner Abuse
- Libya Denounces Desecration of Holy Quran
We have follow-up posts here and here.
Also doubting the retraction are:
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