September 10, 2014 / 6:34 PM / 3 years ago

Israeli policeman charged over violent arrest of U.S. teen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli policeman was charged on Wednesday with assault causing bodily harm against a 15-year-old American of Palestinian descent during a protest over the revenge killing of the teenager’s cousin days before the eight week war with Gaza.

The indictment submitted to a Jerusalem court charged the policeman with grabbing the youth and throwing him to the ground, and subsequently pummelling and dragging him with help from other officers in the course of his arrest.

The U.S. State Department at the time urged a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” against the American teen, a video of whose arrest was circulated on the Internet.

“I just want justice for what the Israeli police did to me, and I don’t want it happening to anybody else, especially another child,” said the teenager, 15-year-old Tariq Khdeir of Tampa, Florida, in a telephone interview.

The protests had erupted after the torching to death of the high school student’s cousin, Mohammed Abu Khudeir, 16. Three Israelis have been charged with the murder, said to have been done as revenge for the killings of three Israeli teens in June.

The two-page indictment did not identify the teenager, but a Justice Ministry official confirmed it concerned the Florida teenager, whose encounter with police stoked Arab-Israeli tension before the conflict erupted.

Police said at the time Khdeir was one of six protesters detained during the clashes in East Jerusalem.

Israel has since released him and he returned to Florida in mid-July.

Many of the teen’s relatives continue to be incarcerated by Israeli police without charges, in apparent retaliation for the publicity over the case, said Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida and an attorney for the Khdeir family, in a statement.

The teenager’s mother said in a phone interview that the charges against the Israeli policeman were overdue.

“It’s just a shame that it had to happen to an American citizen in order for them to actually take action,” said Suha Khdeir, 36.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Alison Williamsn and Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.

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