The US on Thursday criticized a decision by an Israeli court to sentence to community service an Israeli police officer videoed beating a Palestinian-American teen during a protest and questioned the capacity of the ruling to “promote full accountability.”
The officer was given 45 days of community service and a suspended four-month prison sentence.
“We were disappointed to hear that the police officer who severely beat American teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir in July of 2014 was spared prison time by an Israeli court yesterday,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing.
“Given the clear evidence captured on videotape of the excessive use of force, it is difficult to see how this sentence would promote full accountability for the actions of the police officer in this case,” he added.
Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri on Thursday confirmed the unnamed officer’s sentence
While Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach said there was “no need and no justification” for the force used by the officer against Abu Khdeir, 15, the court took into account the officer’s apology, his lack of a criminal record and his service on behalf of the country during difficult circumstances.
State prosecutors had requested a seven-month jail term for the beating of Abu Khdeir, which drew sharp international condemnation and set off weeks of rioting in the capital.
Abu Khdeir’s attorney, Mohammad Mahmoud, said the ruling, which came Wednesday, delivered an “extremely light” punishment that “gives (police) a free hand.”
The Tampa, Florida, teenager of Palestinian descent was visiting family in Jerusalem last July when his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish extremists. That killing, which came in retaliation for the killing of three Jewish teens a month before, sparked weeks of rioting in the capital and set off a chain of events that led to Israel’s military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last year.
While police asserted that Abu Khdeir was armed with a slingshot and was actively participating in the riot, he and his family denied direct involvement. The teen was placed under house arrest for nine days before he was allowed to return home to the US.
Amateur footage showed the Border Police officer repeatedly kicking and punching the teen after he was already handcuffed on the ground.
Following the conclusion of an internal police investigation, the Justice Ministry in September said the probe concluded that “evidence was found supporting the guilt of the police officer suspected of severe violent crimes.”
The officer signed a plea bargain in which he admitted to the allegations against him, and was criminally charged with assaulting a minor by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
In January, Israel dropped all charges against Abu Khdeir for his alleged participation in the July riot.
AP contributed to this report.