TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) - Tariq Khdeir, the Tampa teenager whose videotaped beating at the hands of Israeli police attracted international attention, returned home Wednesday night to a cheering crowd of dozens of friends, family members and supporters.
Wearing khaki shorts and a black Nike shirt, Tariq, 15, showed few signs of the July 3 beating. Pictures after that incident showed the teen with a badly bruised face and mouth, but the only obvious sign Wednesday of what had happened two weeks before was a barely perceptible swelling around his left cheek.
The crowd rushed Tariq when he arrived at the terminal at Tampa International Airport shortly before 11 p.m., showering him with hugs and kisses. One woman held aloft a Palestinian flag; several people waved American flags. “You're a hero,'' someone in the crowd yelled.
Tariq and his mother both briefly addressed the crowd and throng of reporters but didn't take questions. Both thanked the Tampa area for its support during the last two weeks, and both spoke about Tariq's cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive in what Palestinian authorities said was a revenge attack by Israeli extremists after three Israeli teens were killed in the Gaza Strip.
“You know my story because I'm an American, but I hope you remember my cousin ... this whole thing started because he was killed,'' Tariq said.
Tariq, who is an American citizen of Palestinian descent, was at a protest July 3 following his cousin's killing when he was arrested, handcuffed and beaten by Israeli police. His family said he was only observing, but Israeli authorities said he was one of several masked protesters who were throwing rocks at police.
He was sentenced to nine days of house arrest in Jerusalem while authorities investigated his involvement in the violent protest. His family said the teen suffered several broken bones and internal bleeding and was denied adequate medical care during the several days he was held in an Israeli prison. Tariq and his family had been in Israel since early June visiting relatives.
Photo Credit TBO.com