US college football players charged in anti-Muslim beating
Five football players at a private US Christian college have been charged in connection with a hazing incident that allegedly included anti-Muslim taunts and left a student with injuries requiring surgeries.
The football players at Wheaton College, located in a Chicago suburb, were charged with aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action, the prosecutor's office told AFP on Tuesday.
Almost all of the charges are felonies, with the most serious carrying a sentence of two to five years in prison, DuPage County States Attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said.
The accused are currently listed as members of Wheaton's football team - one of the top US collegiate football programmes: James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos.
They are accused of abducting a freshman teammate in 2016, beating him and leaving him with two torn shoulders that required surgeries, according to the Chicago Tribune, which cited unreleased investigative documents.
The victim, unidentified to protect his privacy, told investigators he was held down in a car while his abductors attempted to sodomise him with an object and then beat him, the newspaper reported.
The student also claimed Middle Eastern music was playing in the car while the abductors made offensive comments about Muslims "who wanted to fornicate with goats," the Tribune said.
The student told the newspaper the incident had had "a devastating effect on my life".
"What was done to me should never occur in connection with a football program or any other activity," the student said in a statement to the newspaper, which also reported that he had left the college.
Prosecutors would not confirm details of the case, pending a possible court hearing late Tuesday afternoon. The five students charged were to either appear at the hearing or post a $5,000 bond, Darrah said.
Wheaton College and the victim's attorney did not immediately return requests for comment.
The college emphasises Christian teachings and in its hazing policy says "we want to honor Jesus Christ in our relationships with one another and on our teams".
The school told the Tribune that it had investigated the incident last year and took "corrective actions," which reportedly included requiring several players to perform 50 hours of community service.