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Sunday, July 6

Palestinian-American teen walks, others 'rot in jail'
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By Graham Liddell

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The mother of a 15-year-old Palestinian who was released on bail Sunday after being beaten by Israeli police said that if her son were not a US citizen, he would likely still be held in Israeli jail.

If Tarek were not American, "he would just be pushed to the side like a dog," Suha Abu Khdeir told reporters following Tarek's hearing at Jerusalem District court.

"He would have been left to rot in jail," she said.

Instead, Tarek was sentenced to nine days house arrest outside the Shufat neighborhood. He and his family plan to return to the US on July 16.

The teen was arrested Thursday after being beaten severely by Israeli police officers in the Shufat neighborhood of Jerusalem amid clashes following news that his cousin, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive, apparently by Jewish extremists.

Video footage capturing the beating emerged later that evening and went viral as word spread that Tarek was an American citizen.

The video, in addition to pictures of the youth before and after the beating, led to a social media outcry and eventually US state department condemnation of the attack.

Suha Abu Khdeir said that the US consulate in Jerusalem had been very helpful throughout the case.

"The US consulate has been by our side since the first moment we got news he (was) in jail -- they've been by our side day and night."

Three employees of the US consulate were present at the hearing.
Suha Abu Khdeir speaks to reporters moments before her son is released

An employee of the prisoners' rights group Addameer who attended the hearing told Ma'an Tarek's American citizenship was one of two main reasons his case got more attention than most.

"The other is that it was caught on camera," said Gavan Kelly, coordinator of the advocacy unit at Addameer.

"This happens all the time. It's just not always caught on camera."

Ivan Karakashian of Defense for Children International concurred.

"And what we're afraid about is the fact that Israeli security forces have begun confiscating all kinds of security cameras, all kinds of things that could prove their brutality," Karakashian said.

"What we've seen is the brutal use of excessive force against a Palestinian child, 15 years old, after that child realized that his cousin has been burned alive in what's apparently a revenge attack," Karakashian told Ma'an.
Photo from Twitter

Israeli forces 'beat people every day'

After spending over 48 hours in Israeli custody, a quiet but brave Tarek, his face still bruised and swollen, described the attack to reporters immediately upon his release.

"They came from behind and they hit me, and they kept hitting me, and then I fell asleep, and then I woke up in the hospital," Tarek said.

"I was standing and watching the people and they came from the side of me."

Once he was jailed, Tarek said he was treated well.

The teen was one of 21 Palestinians who had a hearing at Jerusalem District Court on Sunday.

Two other Palestinian 15-year-olds at the courthouse for proceedings on Sunday told Ma'an they had recently been arrested in the nearby al-Isawiya neighborhood during clashes with Israeli forces.

They said they had seen the video of Tarek being beaten, and said it was something "normal" to them.

Israeli forces "beat people every day," one of the teens, Muhammad, told Ma'an.

Two activists from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel who attended the hearing told Ma'an they came to show support for all the Palestinians on trial that day.

"We thought that it was important for us to come show solidarity here ... not just for Tarek for also all the other people who have cases here today," Isobel, one activist, told Ma'an.

"There are so many Palestinian children that have to go through this, and they don't get any media attention at all. It's incredibly biased."

This is grieving time

Tarek's beating and imprisonment comes amid heavy tension as Palestinians in the West Bank and inside Israel protest the apparent lynching of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old teen from the Shufat neighborhood.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir's murder seems to be a racist hate killing in response to the murder of three Israeli teenagers, and an Israeli official said Sunday that six Jewish extremists had been arrested regarding the case.

"This is grieving time," Suha Abu Khdeir told reporters as she prepared to leave the courthouse premises.

"We're still grieving over Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and I'm dealing with this now. I'm supposed to be by the side of Muhammad Abu Khdeir's mother and instead I'm next to my son."

She said she would be pressing charges and pushing for an investigation into the individual policemen who beat her son.

An Israeli police spokesman said the Justice Department was "examining the circumstances of what happened after the suspect was arrested."

He said "six Palestinians masked in kufiyyehs" were arrested at the same time and that three of them were armed with knives.

According to Defense for Children International Palestine, 214 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli jails as of May.

Over 8,000 children have been detained since 2000, according to Addameer.

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