Family and friends of a Florida teenager of Palestinian decent who they say was beaten by Israeli police while visiting Jerusalem call for justice and demand that the 15-year old be brought back to the U.S.. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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Family and friends of a Florida teenager of Palestinian descent who says he was beaten by Israeli police while in detention in Jerusalem described him on Monday (July 7) as a typical U.S. high school student.
Tariq Khdeir, age 15, recently finished his freshman year at the Universal Academy of Florida, a private Islamic school where he played on the soccer team. He earned the summer trip to visit relatives by receiving good grades in all of his classes, said his aunt, Sanah Abu Khdeir, during a press conference in Tampa, Florida that was sponsored by the non-profit Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"I love him. This is our baby. Imagine if he was yours," said a tearful Abu Khdeir, 22, who lives near his family in central Florida. "It's really hard for me to see him receive that many blows to the head," she said in reference to the amateur video that reportedly captured his beating.
Tariq's cousin, Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, was abducted and killed in Jerusalem last week, sparking violent protests and calls from Palestinians for a new uprising against Israel.
The Maryland-born teenager, whose family moved to Florida several years ago, is currently under house arrest in Jerusalem, following his release on Sunday by Israeli authorities.
U.S. State officials say he should be able to return home later this month. In Florida, friends and relatives are worried about his medical condition and that his return not be delayed.
Photos show Khdeir's face badly bruised and swollen. After his release, he told reporters that he had not taken part in clashes with police prior to his detention on Thursday along with five other protesters. Reports of his beating drew criticism from the U.S. State Department, and Israeli officials have opened an investigation into the allegations.
This was Khdeir's first trip to Israel to visit his extended family in over a decade, his aunt said. He was traveling with his parents and two younger sisters, ages 10 and 5.
In Tampa, the middle-class family works in the restaurant business and lives in a townhouse near the local mosque, said Hassan Shibly, a neighbor and the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Tariq Khdeir had been looking forward to learning to drive and was hoping to earn a college scholarship to study business or electrical engineering, his aunt said.
"Tariq was heavily, heavily grieved at having his cousin taken away from him so brutally and then only a couple of days later Tariq was brutally attacked and wrongfully arrested," said Shibly.
"He was at my house a couple of weeks ago and we were swimming in the pool, we were playing basketball...we were playing X-Box," said Abdur Rahman Ujaama, Tariq's friend. "Now he's in an Israeli prison and he's on house arrest. This is not something that usually happens to an American teen so he must be scared," Ujaama said.
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