Scott Iskowitz / AP)
Tampa, Fla.— A Palestinian-American teen left with stitches and bruises from his detention by Israeli security forces said Sunday he was beaten, kicked and blindfolded on a family trip to the Middle East after a cousin there was abducted and killed.
Fifteen-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir flew home to Tampa last week and told The Associated Press from his home in Florida that he holds out hope that he can visit the region again and “come back safe.”
“If I want to see my family members I hope I can,” he said, adding “I don’t want to have any problems with anybody.”
Israeli authorities released Tariq three days after he was detained and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they said was his participation in violent protests over the death of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian living near Jerusalem.
Seated beside his mother in his Tampa home, the teen told AP that he did not take part in rock-throwing disturbances shortly before he was picked up by Israeli security forces. He said he just was watching and listening to a commotion surrounding the investigation of the disappearance of his cousin when Israeli forces began shooting rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that had formed.
“I didn’t do anything to them (Israeli authorities) to do this to me,” he said.
The teen said in the first moments of being picked up that he was slammed down. And during the ordeal, he said he was kicked on several parts of his body and blindfolded.
At the time the family was on a trip that began in June and expected to last about six weeks.
Tariq said in the interview that he and Mohammed had struck up a quick friendship after his arrival. They visited sacred sites including the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
They had fun, joked and played games. He said they also helped others in their neighborhood — setting up lights in neighbor’s homes before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Mohammed was killed the fifth week of the visit, Tariq said, adding that the tenor of the trip immediately changed after the cousin was abducted and subsequently found dead.
Tariq said he was slammed down, head first, when he was detained. He added that his hands were tied behind his back and he was kicked in the face, stomach and ribs and went unconscious for a time. Tariq was taken to jail where he was blindfolded and still handcuffed, he added.
Tariq said he felt the hits again when he watched a video of his beating after his release.
Although the teen showed no visible injuries Sunday, Tariq said he has visited the hospital since his return.