By Kyle Balluck - 07/06/14 07:39 AM EDT
The State Department said it is “profoundly troubled” by reports that an American teenager was severely beaten while being held by Israeli authorities.
“We can confirm that Tariq Khdeir, an American citizen, is being held by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a brief statement late Saturday. “He was visited by an official from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem today.”
The teen, who is the cousin of the Palestinian teenager abducted and killed last week in Jerusalem, can travel back to the U.S. if no charges are filed in nine days, attorney Ziad Haidimi added.
“We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force,” Psaki added “We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.”
“We reiterate our grave concern about the increasing violent incidents, and call on all sides to take steps to restore calm and prevent harm to innocents,” she said.
Clashes broke out in Israel on Saturday following reports that Khdeir’s cousin, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, had been burned alive in retaliation for the deaths of three Israeli youths last month.
An autopsy revealed that Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir had soot in his airways, according to the Palestinian attorney general, Mohammed al-A’wewy.
“It was obvious through autopsy that there was black smoke on the breathing airways, windpipes and in the two lungs,” al-A'wewy said in a statement on his office's website. “This is proof of inhalation of this material during the torch, while he was alive."
It is widely thought that Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir was killed in revenge for the murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, three Israeli youths who disappeared June 12 in the West Bank and were found dead almost three weeks later.
Tariq Khdeir's family said he was among the Palestinians protesting his cousin's killing, but was not involved in the clashes, according to CNN.
Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer said a tape apparently showing Tariq Khdeir being beaten was “very disturbing.”
“It's important to understand from what I understand about this particular incident, this boy was one of six boys who had attacked the police with petrol bombs, with Molotov cocktails,” Dermer said. “Our police are under extreme threat in the Jerusalem area. They're facing mobsters and rioters. It doesn't mean that excessive force is acceptable. It's never acceptable.”
--Mike Lillis contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:35 a.m.