POLITICS
07/15/2014 07:01 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014

Cousin Of Teen Beaten By Israeli Police Says She Was Kicked Out Of Dem Rep's Office

WASHINGTON -- After Tariq Abu Khdeir was brutally beaten by Israeli police last week, the 15-year-old Tampa boy's family thought his congresswoman, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), would step in to offer some help. But Khdeir's cousin, Tamara Essayyad, says when she went to Castor's office in Washington, D.C., she was berated by a staffer and eventually kicked out.

Khdeir's family made several attempts to get in touch with Castor, who was unresponsive for days, Essayyad told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. The teenager, whose beating at the hands of Israeli security forces was captured on camera, has been under house arrest in East Jerusalem since last week.

Watch the interview above.

Khdeir's family asked Essayyad, a Washington-based attorney, to reach out directly to Castor's office. At first, Castor's staff denied that Khdeir was one of their constituents, Essayyad said. After she proved that he was a constituent of theirs, Essayyad said, the office continued to stall. She decided to visit Castor's office on Capitol Hill last Tuesday, hoping she'd have better luck in person.

But she said Clay Phillips, Castor's chief of staff, refused to engage in a discussion. She said he took a copy of the New York Times that Essayyad showed him with her cousin's picture on it, threw it down on a table, and said, "Let me tell you how this is going to go."

"They didn't want to deal with it. They didn't give me any sort of response as to how we could reach out," Essayyad said, adding that Phillips told her there was a process to go through.

"I asked several times, 'Well, how do we tap into that process, because we're losing essential time, and Tariq needs to receive medical treatment. He needs to know that his representative is trying to get him home, and that's not happening,'" Essayyad recalled. "And several times, [Phillips] repeated, 'We're not going to deal with this. We're just not going to talk about this right now.'"

Essayyad went on to say that Castor has yet to condemn the actions of the Israeli police and instead echoed the State Department's position "expressing dismay at reports" of the teenager's beating.

UPDATE: 8:30 p.m. -- Castor spokeswoman Marcia Mejia responded with this statement:

This misrepresentation of events is being used to enflame sentiments at a time when Americans should be working to bridge differences among people.

All who work in Congress, in D.C. or district offices, have had the experience of meeting with someone who is understandably frustrated or angry who wanted immediate responses or results that could not be provided. That does not mean that they were not heard or that their concerns were not taken seriously.

Our office is assisting the Khdeir family. Congresswoman Castor agrees with the U.S. State Department position announced last week expressing dismay at reports that Tariq Khdeir was severely beaten while in police custody, strongly condemning any excessive use of force, and urging a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.

Israel’s Justice Ministry announced that it was conducting such an investigation last week, and subsequently that it is leaning toward indicting the police officer responsible for excessive force. However, the investigation as to the entire series of events revolving around the protest has not concluded.

In this volatile time, Congresswoman Castor urges peace among peoples and accountability for those who target innocent youth for vengeful purposes.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

  • EPA
    Smoke rises after an airstrike by Israeli forces in the south of Gaza City, 09 July 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Israeli missile hits smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • EPA
    Smoke rises after an airstrike by Israeli forces in the south of Gaza City, 09 July 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Israeli missiles hit smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Israeli missile hits smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Smoke trails are seen after missiles were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City towards southern Israel, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip seen from the Israeli side of the Israel Gaza Border, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Since the Gaza offensive began Tuesday, Israel has attacked more than 400 sites in Gaza, killing at least 32 people in a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. Only four rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel overnight, the army said. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Israeli missile hits an area in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing more than a dozen of people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Palestinian salvages what he can from a house after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Palestinian children walk in the rubble of a destroyed house a day after an Israeli strike, in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Palestinian boy plays in the rubble of a destroyed house the day after an Israeli strike in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing more than a dozen people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Palestinians check a destroyed house a day after an Israeli strike late Tuesday, in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing more than a dozen people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A fireball rises following an Israeli missile strike on the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip, early Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing at least 11 people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. Only four rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel overnight, the army said. (AP Photo)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Palestinian removes rubble near a damaged building belonging to a senior Hamas official following an Israeli missile strike in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing at least 11 people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. Only four rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel overnight, the army said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Palestinian mourners carry bodies of the five members of the Hamad family who were killed in an Israeli missile strike late Tuesday, in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Israeli army on Wednesday intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing more than a dozen of people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

CONVERSATIONS