Court martial begins for Parris Island drill instructor accused in Marine recruit’s death

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT)–The court-martial for a Marine Corps drill instructor accused of abusing two Muslim recruits, one who leaped to his death last year, began today aboard Camp Lejeune.

Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Felix is facing charges of cruelty and maltreatment stemming from the 2016 death of Raheel Siddiqui. GySgt. Felix also faces charges stemming from incidents with two other Muslim recruits.

During opening statements, prosecutor Capt. Corey Wielert described GySgt. Felix as a man “drunk on power”. The prosecution detailed how GySgt. Felix forced Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche into a clothes dryer before turning it on and off several times. He also told another recruit, Rekan Hawez, to get in the dryer and referred to him as “ISIS”.

LCpl. Bourmeche was the first witness called to the stand. He demonstrated on an actual dryer brought into the courtroom how he crawled inside during the early morning hours in July 2015. He was allegedly forced out of his bed by GySgt. Felix and Sgt. Michael Eldrige, forced to do crunches and push-ups in the shower, and then told to dry off in the machine. LCpl. Bourmeche testified the dryer was turned on roughly 30 seconds each time. He said that while in the dryer thoughts running through his mind were that he “made a mistake by joining the Marine Corps.” The incident happened during Marine Week.

LCpl. Bourmeche also testified that GySgt. Felix tied his belt in a loop around his head and forced him to walk in a hunched over position. He also made LCpl. Bourmeche perform a mock beheading of another recruit that same night.

The defense, led by Lt. Cdr. Daniel Bridges, said many of the accusations have been blown out of proportion. He told the trial members that reality “leaves a lot to the imagination.” During cross-examination, the defense questioned why the allegations against GySgt. Felix were made months after the Marines left Parris Island. The initial allegations were made by a friend of LCpl. Bourmeche who was facing being kicked out of the Marine Corps for failing to train, he said..

Judge Lt.Col. Michael Libretto is only allowing Siddiqui’s death to be discussed in terms of the obstruction of justice charge that GySgt. Felix is facing.

A total of 76 witnesses are expected to testify.

 

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