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Court-martial begins for Marine drill instructor accused of abusing Muslim recruits

Raheel Siddiqui was 11 days into his basic training with the United States Marine Corps on Parris Island in South Carolina when he died.

On March 18, 2016, new Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor died after falling in his barracks on Parris Island, South Carolina. 

A coroner ruled the fall was suicide, but Siddiqui's family insists that he was a devout Muslim and would never have committed suicide. They've filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Marines in their son's death.

The investigation into Siddiqui's death and other incidents involving Muslim recruits has led to the biggest hazing scandal on Parris Island since six recruits drowned there during a nighttime march in April 1956.

A court-martial for Raheel Siddiqui's drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix began Tuesday at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix is accused of slapping Siddiqui just before the fatal fall.

Todd Spangler, a reporter with the Detroit Free Press covering the trial, joined Stateside to share what went on in the first two days of the proceedings.

While the lawsuit stems from Siddiqui’s death, it doesn’t end there.

“This is really more about the prosecution’s allegations that Gunnery Sgt. Felix maltreated several recruits, three of whom are of Muslim faith,” Spangler said.

Allegations include hitting and kicking recruits, referring to Muslim recruits as terrorists, and one particular instance in which Gunnery Sgt. Felix and another drill instructor allegedly ordered a recruit “into an industrial-sized dryer on Parris Island at the base, turned it on several times, burning him, referred to him as a terrorist, and took other actions demeaning his faith.”

The defense will potentially bring in as many as 80 witnesses.

“The government’s case so far is the recruits we’ve heard of so far two days in have differing remembrances of this, so it’s sort of all over the board,” Spangler said.

Either way, Spangler said that Siddiqui’s death and the trial raised investigations on Parris Island to a high profile.

Listen above for the full conversation.

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