The parents of a Marine recruit who died during training at Parris Island, South Carolina, have asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of their $100 million wrongful death lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Raheel Siddiqui had to “endure torture, maltreatment and abuse,” at least in part because he was Muslim.
Originally filed in 2017, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2019 by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based on the Feres Doctrine, which courts repeatedly have used to block lawsuits against the government for wrongful death or medical malpractice.
Siddiqui’s parents, Ghazala and Masood, are now asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether the Feres Doctrine applies to alleged military negligence that takes place during the recruiting process before a civilian joins the military, The Detroit News first reported.
The petition was docketed with the court Jan. 22 and the petition is no guarantee that the high court will actually hear the case.
Marine Corps officials have identified the recruit who died Friday at the service's East Coast training depot as Raheel Siddiqui, of Taylor, Michigan.
The petition claims that Siddiqui’s recruiter failed to inform him of the particularly harsh treatment he would receive at boot camp for being Muslim and that the Marine Corps failed to protect him from drill instructors with a history of singling out Muslim recruits for abuse.
“The intentional violations, fraudulent actions, and torts against Petitioners were initialized and effected long before Siddiqui ever enlisted,” the petition said. “But their effects were fatal.”
Siddiqui died after he threw himself off the barracks stairwell, falling 40 feet, while going through boot camp in 2016, an investigation into his death found.
Immediately before he threw himself, Siddiqui had gone to his drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, and asked to be sent to medical for a sore throat.
When Siddiqui failed to give the proper greeting of the day, Felix forced the recruit to run back and forth across the squad bay until he eventually passed out, the investigation found.
At some point Siddiqui passed out and was then slapped by Felix, who claimed he was trying to revive him. Siddiqui then got up and ran away from the drill instructor, jumping to his death, the investigation found.
Felix was convicted in 2017 for abusing recruits. During his trial a testimony alleged that Felix singled out Muslim recruits forcing one to simulate chopping off the head of another Marine while yelling “Allahu akbar," allegedly forcing two Muslim recruits to climb inside an industrial dryer.
Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche testified that Felix and fellow drill instructor Sgt. Michael Eldridge only let him out of the dryer after he told them he was no longer a Muslim, Marine Corps Times previously reported.
Both incidents allegedly happened before Siddiqui shipped to boot camp.
Siddiqui’s family argues that the Marine recruit did not kill himself and alleges that the Marine Corps investigation that labeled his death as suicide only served to muddy the waters and make it harder for the family to seek justice through the courts.
“Had another civilian endured the same type of abuses suffered by Raheel Siddiqui, he and his estate could have brought an actionable suit,” the petition said. “But because Raheel Siddiqui was considered a military recruit with an unverified and uncorroborated allegation of suicide against him, he and his family were denied this right.”
The Supreme Court receives between 7,000 and 8,000 petitions annually but only hears roughly 80 cases, according to scotusblog.com, an independent website which describes itself as “devoted to covering the U.S. Supreme Court comprehensively.”