Family demands Israel release Tampa teen

Tampa, Florida -- Friends and relatives of Tariq Khdeir are demanding the Tampa teen's immediate release from house arrest in Israel.

They gathered on Monday afternoon at the Temple Terrace offices of the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR).

A classmate described 15-year-old Tariq as a typical kid who likes playing soccer, basketball and Xbox games. The family insists that Tariq was on the family's own property when this all happened; he was not roaming the streets, and not looking for trouble with Israeli police forces.

They say that bottom line, there is simply no excuse for the kind of beating Tariq was subjected to at the hands of Israeli police.

There are however, people watching this story who – while not condoning the beating -- have raised questions about why Tariq was allowed to get so close to those protests, and what his role was in them.

His relatives say Tariq and his parents were in Jerusalem to visit family when, Tariq's cousin was kidnapped and burned to death last week.

Tariq was beaten, they say, while innocently observing a protest in response to that, standing on the family's own property.

But in the video of Tariq being beaten, he can be seen wearing a Palestinian scarf, or Keffiyeh.

The red and white checkered fabric is wrapped around his head, and commonly worn by Palestinians during clashes with Israeli forces to conceal their identities.

We asked his relatives about that.

Hamdi Swalam, Tariq's uncle said it doesn't mean he was involved in anything.

"It's a sign of Palestinian nationalism. You never know, maybe there was tear gas around and he had to wrap it around his head or put it over his mouth so he won't smell the tear gas," said Swalam.

Tariq's Aunt, Sanah Abu Khdeir, called any notion that Tariq would look for trouble or join in any protest untrue.

"This is a child. He's an American child, 15 years old," she said. "This child should not have to go through this and neither should any child. Israeli, Palestinian. We're not being political. We're being human."

Trying to be political or not, it has become political. Tariq's father, we're told, met today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Relatives say the family has also filed a formal complaint against the Israeli police force.

CAIR, acting as the family's legal counsel, also sent a letter to the Israeli Consulate demanding Tariq be released immediately so he can seek medical attention in the U.S. and not have to wait through several days of house arrest while the incident is being investigated.

Watch excerpts from Monday's CAIR press conference with Tariq's family:


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