CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A third Muslim recruit allegedly was abused at Parris Island by former drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who is on trial for allegedly hitting and slapping recruits, one of whom jumped to his death after Felix allegedly slapped him in the face.
On Tuesday, the prosecution told a military jury that Felix allegedly ordered another Muslim recruit to sit in a dryer but did not turn the dryer on.
Early one morning, Felix allegedly told Marine recruit Rekan Hawaz, “Hey ISIS, get in the dryer,” and witnesses saw Hawaz climb inside, Capt. Corey Wielert said on Tuesday.
Felix is also accused of kicking Hawaz in the face.
An ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation uncovered the allegations of abuse against Hawaz, said Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Training and Education Command. The allegations stem from 2015, around the same time of other Parris Island incidents that were the subject of TECOM investigations.
Raheel Siddiqui died on March 18, 2016 when he jumped down a stairwell at Parris Island. Moments earlier, Felix allegedly slapped Siddiqui, who had collapsed on the floor. Felix is also accused of ordering another Muslim recruit to sit in a commercial dryer and turning it on several times.
Although Siddiqui’s death created massive controversy concerning how recruits at Parris Island are treated, very little of Tuesday’s testimony dealt with what happened to him.
Most of Tuesday’s trial dealt with Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche, who said that Felix and another drill instructor ordered him to sit inside a commercial dryer and then turned it on three times.
When Bourmeche arrived at Parris Island in April 2015, he tried to pursue his parents’ faith and asked for a copy of the Quran, he testified on Tuesday. Later, his dog tags indicated he was a Muslim.
During the last week of boot camp, Bourmeche said, he awoke after hearing someone calling out: “Where’s the terrorist?”
Felix and Sgt. Michael Eldridge allegedly made Bourmeche exercise in the shower and then told him to sit in the dryer, Bourmeche said. “They asked me if I was affiliated with 9/11,” he said.
Then, they turned the dryer on, Bourmeche said. Twice, Bourmeche was asked if he was “still a Muslim,” he said. Only after he said no was he allowed out.
On a separate night, Felix allegedly hogtied Bourmeche into a stress position using Bourmeche’s Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt and then made him simulate cutting another Marine’s head off while yelling “Allahu akbar,” Bourmeche said.
Before the night was over, Felix had allegedly told Bourmeche that he had “been fighting motherf***ers like me” during his Marine Corps career and that he wanted to mount the heads of Bourmeche’s family on pikes.
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Bridges, pointed out that Bourmeche originally had told investigators that Eldridge was the one who had asked him repeatedly if he was a Muslim while he was inside the dryer and made other statements that the prosecution attributes to Felix.
Eldridge has reached a pretrial agreement with prosecutors, under which he will face a summary instead of a general court-martial, Bridges said in his opening statement.
“A drowning man will grasp at straws, and Sgt. Eldridge is surely that,” Bridges said.
Felix is accused of maltreatment for slapping Siddiqui as well as calling him a “terrorist” and asking him if he “needed his turban,” according to a redacted copy of the charge sheet against him. Felix has also been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly telling recruits not to discuss Siddiqui’s death outside the squad bay.
Military judge Col. Michael Libretto told jurors that they can recognize that Siddiqui is dead and cannot be a witness in the context of the specific charges against Felix; but he added, “You shall draw no inference from these facts and draw no conclusions from them.”
Bridges declined to comment when a reporter asked him Tuesday if Felix had targeted Muslims.
“Gunnery Sgt. Felix has 14 years in the Marine Corps,” Bridges told reporters. “He was a wife and four daughters that he loves very much. I think that you’ll see that he has been a good Marine, who trained recruits hard with intensity.”