CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The family of a Marine recruit who died during training in South Carolina is disputing a Marine account that he killed himself amid a widespread culture of hazing and abuse in the Corps.
Shiraz Khan, the attorney for the family of Raheel Siddiqui, 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 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.
Last weekend U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, (D-MI) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) traveled to the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot located on the South Carolina coast about 75 miles (120.7 kilometers) southwest of Charleston.
Siddiqui’s family lives in Dingell’s district. She and Issa met with depot commander Marine Brig. General Austin Renforth, and other senior Corps leaders about changes the Marines are making.
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.
“General Renforth has assured me this is personal to him and he is committed to working toward real change to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future,” Dingell said in a statement.
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.
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