Islamic Jihad shows pictures of allegedly desecrated Koran
Accuses IDF of abusing books; Israel prison service denies accusations, says pictures were staged.
The militant Islamic Jihad presented pictures of torn Koran holy books, claimed they were taken inside an Israeli prison and that soldiers were responsible for the desecration. Israel denied the charge and claimed the pictures were staged.
The Islamic Jihad transferred the pictures Wednesday by e-mail to a reporter in the West Bank. They show two Koran books with torn pages. The militants said prisoners took the pictures with cellular telephones and transmitted them 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 affair coincides with the aftermath of a report in a U.S. news magazine that alleged that American soldiers desecrated Korans at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. The report set off deadly riots in the Muslim world. Though it later turned out to be unfounded, U.S. officials admitted that there had been some such instances in the past.
The charges against Israeli soldiers surfaced originally on Tuesday, when prisoners charged that soldiers tore three Koran books 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. 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 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 also 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 (Tuesday), they would have presented them then. There are no more books, period."
The pictures transmitted Wednesday showed Koran books with several pages torn in the middle. It was impossible to tell from the pictures themselves where they were taken or when.
Palestinian human rights workers were not available for comment. Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, said she did not have independent information about the alleged Koran desecration and could not comment about it.
She said she was unaware of any past charges of desecration of Islamic holy. "We have not heard allegations of this type in the past, but that doesn't indicate whether this did or didn't happen," she said.