By JARED LEONE
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Family and friends of the Palestinian-American teen who they allege was beaten by Israeli authorities said Monday that they are anxious to see him return home and for those who mistreated him to be held accountable.
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, should be released and sent back to the United States immediately so he can get medical attention, Hassan Shibly, the teen’s attorney and the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told a news conference.
Tariq has suffered head trauma, has bloodshot eyes, and had to receive stitches on his face, Shibly said.
“There’s no justification for what happened,” he said.
The teen was in police custody in Israel. Authorities released him Sunday and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigate what they say was his participation in violent protests over the death of Tariq’s cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. His family denies that he participated in the protests.
Tariq’s father, who also is in Israel, told The Associated Press over the weekend that he recognized his son in a video of what he said was the beating. The U.S. State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by reports that Tariq was beaten.
The Israeli justice ministry said an investigation has been opened into the footage.
Palestinians suspect Mohammed Abu Khdeir was killed by Israeli extremists exacting revenge for the abduction and killings of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last month.
Shibly called the international incident a “watershed moment” for American-Israeli relations and called on the region to find peace.
“Let’s not play the blame game,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to stop it.”
Tariq’s parents said over the weekend that they plan on returning to the U.S. with their son on July 16. On Monday, Shibly said Tariq’s father has filed complaints with the Israeli government and met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Tariq is a good student who likes to play basketball, soccer and Xbox, friends and family said at the news conference. He went on a vacation to visit relatives he hadn’t seen in about 10 years — not to be part of a conflict, they said.
“He wasn’t expecting this,” said his aunt Sanah Abukhdier, choking back tears as she spoke. “He’s scared of just watching the news, let alone being in the middle of it.”
Abukhdier said she is very close with her nephew and that the two watch movies and play board games together. She thinks of Tariq more as a brother than her nephew, she said.
“We are grieving day and night,” she said. “We don’t sleep.”
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