TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Palestinian-American teen detained by Israeli security forces while on a family visit to the Middle East said Sunday he had been beaten, kicked and blindfolded 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 in an interview from his home in Florida that he hopes he can eventually 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 their Tampa home, the teen told AP that he did not take part in rock-throwing disturbances 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. In June, the family had opened the trip that was to have lasted about six weeks.
Tariq said in the interview that he and Mohammed had become close friends following 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.
"He took me to as many places as he could," Tariq said.
Mohammed was killed the fifth week of the visit, Tariq said, adding that the tenor of the trip immediately changed after the cousin disappeared and then was found dead.
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