'Some 260 guards swamped the prison's tents and cells.' One of the torn Qurans
Photo: AP
Security prisoners hunger strike (Archive Photo)
Photo: AP

From Gitmo to Megiddo

Three Qurans damaged during contraband search of Palestinian prisoners; Prisons Service says some pages fell out when holy books were shaken

The story of Qurans being destroyed at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, enraged the Muslim world. Will similar stories from Israel’s Megiddo Prison reignite the firestorm?


Megiddo Prison weathered criticism Tuesday following a report about damaged holy books.


Palestinian prisoners told Ynetnews that after a morning count of the inmates, some 260 guards swamped the prison’s tents and cells.


The inmates said their clothes, food, and cooking oil were spilled on the floor by the guards, and some prisoners were placed in solitary confinement.


During the course of the prison search, guards tore three Qurans, they said.


Prisoners, warden meet


Tension in the prison remains high, and in attempt to reduce it, the administration invited some prisoners for a private talk and promised that a committee would be appointed to investigate the incident.


“We hope the investigation will be real and significant, as the prisoners are furious and embittered by the incident,” an inmate said.


Tuesday evening, the prisoners decided to declare a hunger strike, beginning the following morning and lasting until an investigation is conducted.


The Prisons Service said, “In the course of the search, a few pages from Qurans that were shaken fell out. As a result, the chief warden of the Prisons Service, Lt. Gen. Yaacov Ganot, ordered an investigation of the incident so it would not repeat itself.”


A preliminary look into the case revealed that the sheets in question were too big to have been torn pages from the copies of the Quran.


The search uncovered 31 mobile phones, 22 hands-free microphones, phone recharges, calling cards, tape recorders and 40 spikes.


The Club Med of security prisons 


However, prisoner representatives are not convinced by the administration’s promise and believe that the recent crackdown is part of attempt to reverse privileges given to Megido prisoners.


“You can eat meat and fish and watch TV undisturbed. Other prisoners in other jails are asking for similar treatment, so the Prisons Service is trying to lower the conditions at Megiddo,” one prisoner representative said.


Islamic fallout


Israel's Islamic Movement said that, if the Quran desecration proved true, "it would a delicate and dangerous matter."


The deputy head of the movement's radical northern faction, Sheikh Kamal Hatib, said, "it seems that Quran desecration has become the norm for those who hate Islam and Muslims." 


Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (Hadash - Ta'al) responded angrily to the Ynetnews report: “Prima facia, we are talking about degrading and uncultured behavior. The matter needs to be investigated immediately and the guilty need to be punished. It’s so symbolic that these things are happening in the democracies of Israel and the United States.”


He said he would bring the matter before the Knesset.


-- Raanan Ben-Zur, Roee Nahmias and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 06.07.05, 19:33
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