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U.S. teen beaten by Israeli police to return home to Florida

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
  • Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, was expected to arrive in Tampa on Wednesday night
  • His videotaped beating, at the hands of Israeli police, sparked outrage and inflamed tensions
  • A high school sophomore in Tampa, Khdeir was visiting Palestinian relatives in Jerusalem

(CNN) -- A Florida teenager whose videotaped beating in Jerusalem was widely decried was to return home late Wednesday, his body still healing from the pummeling he received at the hands of Israeli police.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, was expected to arrive in Tampa on Wednesday night after completing his house arrest in Jerusalem, said Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida.

Khdeir, whose face was unrecognizable after the vicious beating on July 3, still suffers from headaches and bloodshot eyes, Shibly said.

"Hopefully, he's improved some," Shibly said. "We're already in touch with a lot of doctors who are ready to examine him and help him move forward."

A high school sophomore in Tampa, Khdeir was visiting his Palestinian relatives in Jerusalem for the first time in over a decade when he was attacked and detained, family members told CNN after the assault. Amateur video showed Israeli police officers holding down, punching and kicking Khdeir.

Khdeir, born in Baltimore, was outside the home of his cousin, who was kidnapped and killed on July 2 in an incident that further stoked tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. Tensions were already high after three Israeli teens were found dead in the West Bank.

Shibly said that he did not know the outcome of the Israeli police case against Khdeir but that his house arrest had ended Monday.

"They're very, very excited to be coming back home and letting the healing process begin and getting him ready to get back to school in a few weeks," Shibly said of Khdeir's family.

Last week, Israeli authorities said they had suspended a police officer accused of beating Khdeir.

The Israeli Department for the Investigation of Police said Thursday that after an investigation into the incident, it had found evidence to suspect that one of the officers committed "serious violent offenses" while Khdeir was handcuffed.

The department's director is considering criminal charges against the officer, who is in a special undercover unit, and he has been summoned for a hearing, the agency said in a statement. The officer's suspension is for 15 days.

But the department also said Khdeir was identified by police as wearing a mask, carrying a slingshot and taking an active part in the unrest in Shuafat.

Khdeir and his family have denied he did anything wrong.

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

"I just saw somebody running at me, so I tried to run away," he told reporters.

His mother has said the family intends to sue Israeli authorities over the matter.

"What happened is very telling of Israel's culture and tolerance for violence against Palestinians under authority," Shibly said. "If only one (police officer) is prosecuted, clearly it says that there's a level of acceptability in Israeli military and police culture towards violence against Palestinians."

He added, "The main thing is just getting him back home so he can start recovering and getting him back to school and hopefully seeing all the officers involved in the vicious beating are brought to justice so that they cannot harm any other child like that again."

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