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Raheel Siddiqui family and lawyer: Marine recruit’s death “not caused by any misconduct of his own”

Courtesy of the Siddiqui family

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Felix will soon face a general court martial at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The former drill instructor is facing charges including hazing and maltreatment — violations of military discipline — and drunk and disorderly conduct.

He is being tried for his alleged involvement in the March 2016 death of Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui.

Raheel was a 20-year-old from Taylor, Michigan. He was a Muslim-American whose parents had immigrated from Pakistan to the United States in the 1990s.

After just 11 days of boot camp on Parris Island, Raheel Siddiqui died after a three-story fall in his barracks. A Marine report concluded that Raheel Siddiqui had committed suicide.

Stateside’s Cynthia Canty recently sat down with his father Masood Siddiqui, his mother Ghazala Siddiqui, sister Sidra Siddiqui, and the family's attorney Shiraz Khan. They vehemently disagree with the conclusion that their son and brother killed himself. 

Listen above.

[Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017, 5:05pm] Stateside emailed questions to a United States Marine Corps spokesman. The USMC Training and Education Command's answers are below: 

Q:  Given what was in the report, why weren't there assault charges brought against Sgt. Felix or any of the others facing courts marshal?

A:.  GySgt Felix, as well as other’s associated with the investigations, were charged with Maltreatment and Orders Violations rather than Assault.  Prosecutors determined the charged offenses most accurately address the alleged misconduct.

Q:  Why did it take nearly 12 hours from the time Raheel was injured and 9 hours after his death to notify the family?

A:  The command received the first official medical status update from a medical doctor after Raheel Siddiqui was pronounced dead. The command requires an official medical status update from a medical doctor before it is permitted to provide notification to family. Upon notification of death, the Marine Corps immediately assigned a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO), per standard operating procedure, who is required to notify the family in person. The intent was to notify all immediate family members together as soon as physically possible; however, there was a delay in the notification due to the Marine Corps not being able to reach the father at his place of work. The CACO made the decision to notify the Mother and Sister first, and then notified the Father once he arrived at home.

Q:  What is the USMC's policy on notifying families of a recruit's injury or death? Is there a specified time limit and other requirements?

A:  The Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program, MCO 3040.4, identifies the procedures and requirements for notifying a service member's next of kin in case of injury or death.  All notifications will be made in an expeditious, professional and dignified manner with consideration for the casualty's family. The Marine Corps' goal is to accomplish all required notifications within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident. Hours of notification are 0500-2400, unless directed by the Casualty Section, Military Personnel and Recreation, Personal and Family Readiness Division (MFPC). If a service member is categorized (by a medical doctor) as seriously ill or injured, or very seriously ill or injured, the next of kin will be notified telephonically by the MFPC. In the event of a service member's death, a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer will conduct an in-person notification with the next of kin unless circumstances dictate the need to provide notification via telephone.

Q:  What changes have been made at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island since Recruit Siddiqui's death, both in terms of individual leadership and personnel, and in processes and procedures?

A:  To-date, the following changes have been implemented to both Marine Corps Recruit Depots:

  • An additional commissioned officer has been assigned to each series as an Assistant Series Commander, doubling the officer presence and supervision.
  • An overarching recruit training order is being drafted to establish common policies and practices at both Recruit Depots.
  • Updated Commanding General policy letter reinforcing zero tolerance for recruit hazing.
  • A renewed emphasis on hazing prevention has been formally incorporated into the Programs of Instruction (POI) for Recruit Training and Drill Instructor School at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots.
  • The Commanding Generals of the Marine Corps Recruit Depots address every class at DI School and Series Commander Course on the expectations and responsibilities of their roles as leaders of Recruits and Marines.

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Cynthia Canty was the host of Stateside since the weekday show began in 2012. She retired in December 2019.
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