WASHINGTON: A former US Marine drill instructor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for physically and verbally abusing Muslim recruits, including a 20-year-old Pakistani American who allegedly committed suicide after a troubling encounter, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The family of Raheel Siddiqui disputes the Marines and medical examiners ruling about the suicide and says that he was driven to his death by his drill instructor last year at Paris Island when he fell 40 feet onto a concrete stairwell. The family has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Marine Corps and the US government.
An 8-member military court found Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix guilty of mistreating and terrorising three Muslim men, sentencing him to prison and a dishonourable disgrace from the service.
The judgement came after two years of investigation and court-martial during which Felix was found guilty of charges. Many witnesses testified before the jury that Felix called Muslim recruits terrorist and ISIS, another name for Islamic State.
According to the report, a recruit from Siddiqui’s platoon told the court that Felix called Siddique terrorist at least 10 times. The Muslim recruits also told the jury that Felix and another Marine, Sgt. Michael Eldridge put them into an industrial clothes dryer.
Felix Attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr, Daniel Bridges, claimed that Felix did not know that the three men were Muslims and that he slapped Siddique, after which he allegedly committed suicide, was trying to give him medical care. Siddiqui complained of respiratory trouble in the moment before his death.
Prosecutors, however, said that Siddique was forced by Felix to run back and forth in the recruits squad bay and he then slapped the boy in face moments before Siddiqui suddenly ram from the room and jumped to his death.
According to the report, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated 20 Marine drill instructors, officers and staff members amid allegations of hazing, assault and discriminating against Muslim recruits dating to 2015.
Eldridge, who was a party to some of the abuse, accepted an immunity deal that compelled him to testify against his former colleague.