The family of the Taylor man who died during Marines Corps training is pushing back against claims by military officials that he committed suicide.
Raheel Siddiqui, 20, was in basic training with the Marines on Parris Island in South Carolina when he died March 7 after falling 40 feet in a stairwell. Marine officials have said that Siddiqui killed himself, but in a statement released Tuesday through their attorney, Shiraz Khan, the family said “they do not believe the story of Raheel committing suicide.”
“We believe there is a lack of material evidence needed to support ‘suicide’ as the most probable cause of death in this case,” the family said through Khan.
Siddiqui didn’t have any “disqualifying conditions, medical or otherwise, during recruiting and processing into the U.S. Marine Corps,” Khan said. “It’s impossible for his family and friends to accept that he took his own life.”
Siddiqui, who was Pakistani-American Muslim, may have been targeted because of his race and religion, said family members. The Wall Street Journal has reported that his drill sergeant was abusive toward Siddiqui and a previous recruit who was Muslim.
The drill sergeant said the previous recruit was a terrorist and involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and once stuffed him into a clothes dryer, reported the Journal. The drill sergeant also reportedly called Siddiqui a terrorist.
? Related: 20 Marines face discipline after death of Muslim recruit from Taylor
Nabih Ayad, the previous attorney for the Siddiqui family, has said that shortly before before Siddiqui died, the drill sergeant smacked Siddiqui after he became unresponsive. Ayad has said that Marines officials had told the family that Siddiqui told his supervisors in a note that he was suicidal, a claim the family thought was absurd because he was known to be a positive person.
Twenty personnel in the Marines could face disciplinary action tied to the case, officials have said.
In their statement Tuesday, the family called for justice for all, regardless of their faith.
“We need to ask ourselves, what if this patriotic young man was our son or our brother?” their attorney Khan said. “Would his faith make him less American? Absolutely not. We are not only standing for the rights of Raheel, but in reality we are standing for justice and for the rights of every American.”
Also on Tuesday, the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a federal civil rights investigation into Siddiqui’s death. They called for the rights of religious minorities serving in the U.S. military to be protected.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and others have previously called for a full accounting of what happened to Siddiqui.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo
(c)2016 the Detroit Free Press – www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.