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Marines set arraignment in death of Muslim recruit

Raheel Siddiqui, 20, died at the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., while in initial training.

COURTESY OF THE SIDDIQUI FAMILY

By TODD SPANGLER | The Detroit Free Press (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps will hold an arraignment next week for a drill instructor accused of violations related to the death of a Muslim recruit last year.

The Marines' Training and Education Command said today an arraignment for Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix will be held Wednesday at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Felix is accused of several violations of the military code, including cruelty and maltreatment and failure to obey an order in relation to the death of Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old high school valedictorian who died in a fall at the training base at Parris Island, S.C., in March 2016.

Investigations concluded that Siddiqui leaped from an exterior stairwell three stories high after being slapped by Felix. A coroner at the base concluded it was a suicide but Siddiqui's family has rejected that finding.

The family was also pressing for more serious charges to be brought, including possibly manslaughter. The Marines have not commented on why certain charges were brought and others not. Felix is also charged with making false statements, drunk and disorderly conduct and obstruction, though not all those charges are believed to be related to Siddiqui.

Felix is also facing charges at a general court-martial related to another Muslim recruit being abused and ordered into a dryer on the base and being burned when it was turned on

Typically, an arraignment involves the accused hearing the formal charges and then being asked whether he or she pleads guilty or not guilty or reserves the right to plead at a later time. The arraignment and the reading of the charges can also be waived by the accused.

The Marines said the arraignment is expected to last about 15 minutes and it is not known whether Felix will attend.

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