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Israel holds US boy without charge after police nearly beat him to death

Tariq AbukhdeirVIDEOS

Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American Tariq Abukhdeir, cousin of recent lynching victim Muhammed Abu Khudair, was brutally beaten by masked Israeli police on Thursday evening in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. He has since been arrested and held without charge and denied medical treatment, according to his family and the rights group Addameer.

Tariq's family lives in Tampa, Florida and have been on vacation in Palestine since early June. They are scheduled to return to the United States on 16 July. Tariq's next court hearing is scheduled for Sunday, 6 July.

As photos of Tariq's horrific facial bruises surfaced, so did two videos that show masked Israeli officers punching, kicking and dragging a handcuffed Palestinian in Shuafat [videos at the bottom of the page].

Salahedeen Khdeir, Tariq's father, told The Electronic Intifada by phone from Shuafat that the Palestinian in the video is his son Tariq and that the footage was recorded by neighbors who then released it to a Palestinian media outlet.

Salahedeen says Tariq was visiting his uncle's house in an area devoid of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians when he and five other youths were attacked in the yard by two masked Israeli police agents.

Tariq was roughed up the worst, beaten so badly that he lost consciousness. But that didn't stop the Israeli forces from arresting Tariq and the others without charge and preventing Tariq from receiving medical treatment for five hours.

"Tariq was arrested at 7:35pm but wasn't transferred to the hospital until around 1:30am," said Salahedeen. During those five hours his parents were prevented from seeing him as well.

At the police station, Salahedeen came face to face with his son's attackers, who called Tariq "a tough boy" and claimed he tried to attack them.

Kangaroo court

Tariq's parents did not see him again until Friday in an Israeli court where the judge extended his imprisonment another 48 hours as requested by the Israeli police, who argued they still needed to question him.

The officers told the judge that Tariq and his cousins were throwing stones, an accusation Tariq and his family vehemently deny. When asked if they had any witnesses to the alleged stone-throwing, the officers said no, Salahedeen recounted.

When Salahedeen showed the video of Tariq's beating to the judge, he said, she was appalled and asked the officers why they beat a boy who was handcuffed. She also asked why Palestinian youths arrested for throwing stones appear in court with bruises while Israeli Jewish youths arrested for throwing stones appear unharmed.

The officers responded, "When we tell the Jewish kids to stop throwing stones, they stop and let us lock them up. But the Palestinians kids want to fight," recounted Salahedeen.

"Tariq is scared," said his father, adding that his son speaks very little Arabic and no Hebrew, making an already nightmarish ordeal even more terrifying for the 15-year-old.

Salahedeen begged the judge to let him stay with Tariq in jail so he so he could check his son's urine for blood each time he uses the bathroom, as advised by the doctor who treated the boy. This has led his family to fear that he may have internal bleeding. The judge denied Salahedeen's request, promising that she would personally notify the jail to look after Tariq.

"No protection for Palestinians"

When asked if he expects any accountability or justice for the treatment of his son, Salahedeen said, "No way, this is Israel. There is no protection for Palestinians from the police or soldiers or army."

Referring to 16-year-old lynching victim Muhammad Abu Khudair, Salahedeen added, "My cousin was kidnapped from outside and got killed after 45 minutes and we gave the police pictures of the kidnappers, the car tags, exactly when and where he was taken and still the police say maybe this is a family problem."

"He's a good boy, he's good in school, he loves soccer, loves music," Salahedeen said of his son. "This is the first time he went to sleep far away from his home. And where does he end up? In a jail next to the people who hit him almost to death."

Asked whether the State Department is aware that an American child is being held without charge by Israel, a State Department official responded, "We are aware of these reports but have no comment due to privacy considerations."

Salahedeen says he has an appointment on Saturday with the US consulate, which had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The Palestinian prisoner rights organization Addameer reports that Tariq is one of eleven Palestinians who were beaten and arrested in Shuafat on Thursday, many of whom were minors.

"The continued state-sanctioned violence against children is unlawful and unacceptable," Addameer stated in an appeal for protests against Tariq's treatment.

"Addameer urges immediate action and calls on the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United States consulate and all regional embassies and consulates, human rights organizations and journalists to attend Tarek Abu Khdeir's hearing on Sunday 6 July to investigate the intensified aggression against Palestinian children," the group added.

US family pray

Back in Tampa, Tariq's family is praying for him.

"My whole family is in shock," 22-year-old Ala Kader, Tariq's cousin, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from Tampa. Ala grew up with Tariq, who she says is like a little brother to her.

As a Palestinian, Ala is used to seeing horrifying images out of the region whenever the conflict heats up.

"But to see it happen to your own family members in your hometown from thousands of miles away is devastating," she said.

"It makes your heart go crazy."

Report by Rania Khalek for The Electronic Intifada.


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