Sat, Sep 10, 2016 - Page 7 News List

US Marine Corps probes uncover wide-scale abuse

AP, COLUMBIA, South Carolina

The US Marine Corps is considering possible punishments and potential courts-martial for up to 20 officers and enlisted leaders in the wake of investigations into the suicide of a 20-year-old recruit at its Parris Island training facility in South Carolina.

The results of three investigations released on Thursday found that trainees — and even some drill instructors — were subjected to repeated incidents of verbal and physical abuse at the storied training site. It also faulted commanders for not paying enough attention to what was going on.

The investigations were sparked by the death of Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, a young Muslim who had told his relatives he wanted to become a Marine to serve his country. He died after falling nearly 12m in a stairwell.

Siddiqui family attorney Nabih Ayad said the family has “always suspected hazing of some sort” in connection with his death.

He did not return a telephone call on Thursday and calls to the family were not returned.

Some of the 20 commanders and senior enlisted leaders have already been fired, including the three most senior marines in charge of the recruit’s unit. The marines also ordered that the rest be temporarily relieved, according to a statement sent to reporters.

Under US military law, a preliminary hearing must be held that would determine whether the incident warrants further administrative or judicial action in every individual’s case.

That process could take weeks to months, and the individuals would not be identified unless they are formally charged.

The findings are the result of three investigations conducted over the past six months by Major General James Lukeman from the service’s training and education command.

A redacted investigative report did not mention Siddiqui by name but appeared to describe his death.

It said that on March 18, the day Siddiqui died, an unnamed recruit wrote a note to his drill instructor asking to go to the infirmary for a sore throat.

Because he did not follow proper procedure, the recruit was forced to run back and forth in his barracks, the report said.

After several runs, the recruit began to cry and fell to the floor clutching his throat, apparently unresponsive, the report said, adding that he was ordered to get up and was slapped in the face.

After he was slapped, the recruit ran out a door and vaulted over a railing on the third floor of the barracks, the report said.

The investigation also revealed “recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors,” with a lack of oversight by officers.

Even new drill instructors were subjected to abuse by more senior drill instructors, a practice known as “hat hazing” because of the iconic flat-brimmed hats worn by the instructors.

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