Tariq Khdeir, 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.
His 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.
Khdeir and his family met on Monday with Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, who promised support. His father also filed a formal
criminal complaint against the police officers, saying they denied
his son the medical treatment he needed after they beat him, said
Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Florida chapter of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"It was supposed to be a joyous summer vacation," his aunt Sanah Abu
Khdeir, 22, who lives near his family in central Florida, told
Reuters. "He's just a very spunky, fun kid," who enjoys hot fries
and funny movies, she added.
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. 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.
"Iím hurt for him," said Sanah Abu Khdeir, whose nephew was in tears
when they spoke after his release. "He is completely lost and
confused about what is going on."
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.
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It 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 Shibly, also a
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.
"He is just your average, regular American teenager," said Shibly.
"It is just so sad to see him go through such a traumatic experience
so early in his life."
(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)
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