US drill instructor guilty of abuse after Muslim’s suicide
A US Marine drill instructor has been found guilty of physically abusing boot camp recruits, including three Muslim trainees, one of whom killed himself.
A military jury convicted Gunnery Sgt Joseph Felix, 33, of cruelty, maltreatment and other charges.
The abuse was revealed after the death of a Muslim trainee, two weeks into boot camp, which was ruled to be a suicide.
The Iraq war veteran was accused of calling Muslim recruits “terrorists”.
Felix faces years of confinement in a military prison, loss of pay and rank, and dishonourable discharge from the Marines.
The drill instructor, who prosecutors said was “drunk on power”, will face sentencing on Friday at a military courthouse in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Central to the case was the 2016 death of Raheel Siddiqui, who authorities say killed himself after being repeatedly attacked by Felix at the Marine’s Parris Island, South Carolina, training base.
According to investigators, the 20-year-old jumped to his death from a stairwell.
The Pakistani-American recruit, who had no known history of mental illness, had threatened suicide days earlier.
But he later recanted, saying he had only wanted to get out of the military because he was tired of being physically struck.
Investigators found Felix’s abuse was “likely the impetus” for the suicide.
But Mr Siddiqui’s family disputes the military’s ruling.
They argue their son would not kill himself, because of his Muslim faith.
The Siddiquis have filed a $ 100m (£76m) wrongful death lawsuit against the Marines alleging negligence.
The trial also heard that Felix ordered recruits to choke each other, forcing them drink chocolate milk and then train until they vomited.
Eyewitnesses testified of seeing Felix punch recruits in the face or kick them and hit others with a rifle.
“He wasn’t making Marines. He was breaking Marines,” prosecutor Lt Col John Norman told jurors.
During the trial, Muslim recruits testified that Felix had also called them “Isis”, in a reference to so-called Islamic State.
They said the drill instructor had forced them to role-play a beheading while shouting “god is great” in Arabic.
L/Cpl Ameer Bourmeche told the court of being roused at night by a drunken Felix and forced into a tumble dryer.
“Hey Isis, get in the dryer” the drill instructor would tell the recruit, the court heard.
Cpl Bourmeche said he was told to renounce his faith, but refused, and was twice forced back into the scorching machine.
The recruit said he renounced his faith on the third spin because he feared for his life.
Five other instructors are charged in the case and the training battalion’s commanding officer was fired.