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Marines face charges after recruit dies; family disputes report that recruit killed self

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Marine recruits learn close combat techniques at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Marine Corps is looking at possible punishments and courts-martial for up to 20 officers and enlisted leaders in the wake of investigations prompted by the suicide of a recruit at its Parris Island training facility in South Carolina.

The results of investigations released last Thursday found trainees — and even some drill instructors — were subjected to repeated incidents of verbal and physical abuse. It also faulted commanders for not paying enough attention to what was going on.

The investigations were touched off by the death of Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, a young Muslim who had told his relatives he wanted to become a Marine to serve his country.

Now, Siddiqui’s family is disputing an account that he killed himself amid a widespread culture of hazing and abuse in the Corps.

Shiraz Khan, the attorney for Siddiqui’s family, released a statement saying there’s a lack of evidence that the 20-year-old Taylor, Michigan, resident killed himself March 18 at Parris Island by jumping into a 40-foot stairwell.

Khan released the statement to the Detroit Free Press saying Siddiqui didn’t have any “disqualifying conditions, medical or otherwise, during recruiting and processing into the U.S. Marine Corps. It’s impossible for his family and friends to accept that he took his own life.”

Family members have said that Siddiqui, who was Pakistani-American Muslim, may have been targeted because of his ethnicity and religion, the newspaper reported.

The Free Press has reported that his drill sergeant was abusive toward Siddiqui and a previous recruit who was Muslim, according to Marine officials.

The Washington Post reports that the drill instructor actually ordered Siddiqui to go in an industrial clothing dryer multiple times and turned it on, burning the recruit. All the while, the instructor allegedly kept saying Siddiqui was a terrorist.

The Post says that it reviewed documents from the Marine investigation, which haven’t been publicly released.

In it, it alleges that the instructor yelled “You’re going to kill us all the first chance you get aren’t you, terrorist?” and “What are your plans? Aren’t you a terrorist?” Siddiqui is said to have reported the abuse, which included allegations that he participated in the September 11 attacks, in November 2015, about four months before he died.

The Marine Corps has said the death could lead to punishments for as many as 20 officers and enlisted leaders, some of whom have already been fired. The findings resulted from three investigations conducted by the Marines.

The Corps has said it is increasing oversight over training activities and will have no tolerance for hazing including mandatory suspension of any personnel investigated for abuse or hazing.

About 500 drill instructors are assigned to Parris Island, which trains male recruits from east of the Mississippi River. It is the only base that trains female Marine recruits, who are trained separately from the men.