A Jerusalem court ordered Sunday that a Palestinian American teenager allegedly beaten in police custody be released to house arrest for nine days pending an investigation into stone-throwing allegations.
Tariq Abu Khder, 15, holds US citizenship and lives in Florida. He is a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khder, a 16-year-old Palestinian whose kidnap and murder by suspected Jewish extremists on Wednesday sparked four straight days of riots.
Tariq “was given nine days’ house arrest in Beit Hanina for the duration of the investigation,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, following a hearing at Jerusalem Magistrates Court, referring to a neighbourhood of annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was watching “closely”.
“If the investigation is concluded promptly, Mr Khder should be able to return to Florida as planned with his family later this month,” she said, adding he was being restricted to his uncle’s home but was allowed to visit medical facilities if needed.
An official from the US Consulate General attended the hearing.
Tariq was arrested on Thursday in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat during clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli riot police that erupted a day before.
According to his parents, Tariq was beaten in police custody, provoking a sharp rebuke from the US State Department, which said it was “profoundly troubled” by the report.
“We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for the apparent excessive use of force,” Psaki said earlier.
– ‘Nationalistic’ motive –
The teen was holidaying in Jerusalem when his cousin was murdered in what was widely believed to be a revenge attack following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank last month.
Until now, Israel police have said the motive for the cousin’s murder was unclear, but on Sunday, Samri said there were “indications that apparently the background to the killing was nationalistic.” All other details are under a gag order.
Preliminary post-mortem results suggested the teenager had been burned alive.
A day after Tariq’s arrest, a video surfaced on YouTube showing what appeared to be Israeli border police beating and kicking a handcuffed semi-conscious figure lying on the ground, before dragging him away.
Police confirmed the footage was taken during the arrest of six Palestinians in Shuafat, but could not say whether the figure was that of the teenager, whose mother showed AFP a picture of him with his face grossly distorted by injuries and swelling.
The justice ministry’s police investigations department began an investigation into the violence late Saturday following an order by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who demanded the incident be “urgently” looked into, a statement said.