Tampa teen whose cousin was killed in Israel recovers from police beating

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, was visiting family in Jerusalem when police beat him up, after his cousin was burned to death

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Tarek Abu Khdeir

TAMPA, Fla. - The Universal Academy of Florida in Tampa says it has a mission: To teach their students the principles and practices of Islam and to prepare them for academic success and good citizenship. Last week, one of their students was put to the test.

Most students of the Tampa school are off for the summer. Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, a sophomore, is in the school's basketball and soccer teams, and is a member of the fishing club. He was with his mom and dad visiting his family and his grandmother's deathbed in East Jerusalem.

On the day his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burned to death, his private Islamic school in Tampa used Facebook to send a message to students. The message had the hash tag Ramadan, a Muslim religious observance ending July 28.

"Whoever does something good in this month, Allah multiplies it by 70," said Al-Tirmidhi.

There were clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem. For about two minutes, men wearing Israeli security forces uniforms delivered more than 20 blows to Tariq Thursday. Videos of the beating went viral worldwide.

Tariq was born in Baltimore and moved to Tampa about six years ago. Tariq's parents co-own a restaurant and his sisters -- a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old -- are also students at Universal Academy. They were set to return to school Aug. 18th.

His aunt Sanah Eddeine Abu Khdeir organized a rally in Tampa to ask for his return. She said Tariq was in Jerusalem since early June

"Send our boy home," Tariq's aunt said. "He's pure American ... he's a typical American boy confused and lost."

Tariq was hospitalized and taken to jail with several other protesters. His family said he had broken bones and suffered internal bleeding. Tariq did not get to go to his cousin's funeral.

"I was attacked by police. I woke up in the hospital," he said as he walked out of court in Jerusalem Sunday. He had two black eyes and a swollen lip.

An Israeli judge decided Sunday that he had to stay in house arrest in the Jerusalem area of Beit Hanina, where there were reports that another boy's kidnapping had been foiled.

An Israeli police spokesman told the New York Times that one of the videos was edited. Police also said Tariq attacked them, resisted arrest and had a slingshot in his possession. Protesters were using slingshots to hurl stones at officers.

"If he did something wrong, if he broke the law, okay. Judge him, don't kill him," Tariq's father Salah Abu Khdeir told the Tampa Bay Times by phone from Jerusalem.

Tariq's parents believe his beating and his cousin's killing were in retaliation for the death of three Israeli teens found in the West Bank -- Gil-ad Sha'er, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naftali Frankel, 16, a U.S. citizen.

A U.S. Consulate representative in Israel met with Tariq Saturday. And while Israeli authorities made arrests in the death of Tariq's cousin and were investigating his beating, Palestinian authorities had not made any arrests in the killings of the three Israeli teens.

CNN and The Associated Press contributed to this report


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