Israeli forces have been holding a Palestinian-American teenager in a military lockup for nearly a week after bursting into his family home and arresting him in an overnight raid for allegedly hurling rocks at Israeli motorists in the West Bank, his father said on Thursday.
The case highlights Israel's system of military detention for Palestinian minors, which has been frequently criticized, most recently by the UN which said in March that an in-depth study showed it systematically and gravely violated their rights.
The boy's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his 14-year-old son Mohammad was taken into custody early last Friday morning by eight assault-rifle wielding soldiers. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, he said.
"Mohammad Khalek was arrested together with others on April 5, he is suspected of hurling rocks at Israeli vehicles driving down a main road (Route 90) near Silwad, north east from Ramallah," An IDF spokesman said. "The military court agreed to extend the defendant's arrest until April 11 so that he may be charged...The court extended his detention, with the agreement of both sides, until April 14."
A source in the military said that Khalek was sent for military tests during the last few days.
Khalek, a car dealer who splits his time between the West Bank and New Orleans, hasn't been allowed to visit his son in jail. But he has spoken to him at three court hearings, most recently when Mohammad was officially charged on Thursday.
Mohammad's lawyer, Randa Wahbe, said he told her in court that he was interrogated for hours and at one stage, was pushed so hard that his dental braces were broken. She says he was told by interrogators that if he confessed to rock throwing quickly, he would be released. A military spokesman said no complaints of abuse were filed.
"He appears okay, he's a strong kid," said his 46-year-old father. "But there is no law in the world that justifies the way (Israeli forces) acted."
American consular officials declined comment.
"Unfortunately this case is symptomatic of the Israeli military's abusive treatment of Palestinian children in detention," said Bill Van Esveld of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch.
Rights group Defense of Children International says there were 236 minors in Israel military detention in February, 39 of them between the ages of 12 to 15. The group said it receives its numbers from Israel's prison authority.
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