Four Britons who were held at Guantanamo Bay have won the right to go ahead with a lawsuit suing their captors for allegedly violating their religious rights.

Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, the so-called Tipton Three, and Jamal Al-Harith, from Manchester, want $10 million dollars (£5.4 million) damages from US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 US military commanders.

The former detainees, who were held at the camp in Cuba for nearly three years, claim they were forced to shave off their beards, were harassed as they worshipped and once saw a guard throw a copy of the Koran into a toilet bucket.

The American government had argued that the action should be dismissed because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act under which it has been taken was only meant to apply to government action in the continental United States.

But District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that the 1993 law, which restricts government officers from taking action that interferes with individual religious liberty, applied to territories and possessions of the US.

In the case of Guantanamo Bay, “the United States exercises perhaps as much control as it possibly could short of ’ultimate sovereignty’,” he said.

“Flushing the Koran down the toilet and forcing Muslims to shave their beards falls comfortably within the conduct prohibited from government action” by the Act, he added in his ruling on Monday.


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