Less than one week after accusing Israeli police of targeting members of slain Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s family, a US State Department official on Tuesday claimed police are illegally detaining his American cousin.
Following Khdeir’s murder in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2 by three Jewish nationalists, Israeli police were internationally condemned after being caught on video savagely beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, a different American cousin, upon his arrest for rioting at a July 5 protest.
While Tariq has since returned to the United States, on July 28 Israeli police arrested another American cousin, also named Muhammad Abu Khdeir, for throwing firecrackers at police.
Last week State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf criticized Israel for not notifying the US of the second cousin’s arrest and expressed consternation that it was targeting members of the family.
“We are concerned that the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the government of Israel,” Harf said. “We are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appeared to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities.”
During a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday, a State Department official again condemned Israel for arresting the second cousin without due process.
He is now being assisted by the US Consulate-General.
While he remains in police custody, he has yet to be indicted, the official said.
“Mr. Khdeir remains in custody awaiting the date of his next hearing,” a spokesman said.
“The US Consulate-General in Jerusalem is providing consular assistance; a consular official visited him most recently on August 14. The consulate is also in contact with Mr. Khdeir’s family and his lawyer.”
The spokesman added that the State Department had discussed Khdeir’s case with Israel and repeated, almost word for word, Harf’s statement about American concerns over the case.
“Our role is to ensure that Mr.
Khdeir is being afforded due process under local laws and international standards,” the official said. “We will continue to seek access to Mr. Khdeir as long as he is detained, and we will remain in contact with his family.”
On Wednesday, a police spokesman patently denied targeting members of Khdeir’s family.
Asked for comment about Abu Khdeir’s detention, the official said he was unaware of the details of the arrest.
JTA contributed to this report.