Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece decries lack of US action for justice

Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece has decried the lack of action by the Biden administration to ensure justice for the slain journalist, renewing calls for an independent investigation into her killing.

Speaking at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Thursday, Lina Abu Akleh said she and her relatives will “not relent” until they achieve accountability for the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist, who was fatally shot by Israeli forces in May.

Abu Akleh was a US citizen. Lina and other members of the late correspondent’s family visited Washington in July where they met with American officials and lawmakers to demand a US-led probe into the incident.

“It’s been disappointing and frustrating that ever since we left DC until today there hasn’t been any meaningful action,” Lina told reporters on Thursday.

The younger Abu Akleh noted that days before her aunt was killed, Biden released a statement on Press Freedom Day that emphasised the importance of the free press and specifically paid a nod to female journalists.

“Yet, he still has not taken action. He continues to ignore the importance of this case. And most importantly, he isn’t upholding the values that he continues to preach,” Lina said of the US president.

Biden, a staunch Israel supporter who described himself as a Zionist, has also rebuffed the family’s request for a meeting.

Lina urged the United States to open a “thorough, independent, transparent investigation” into the murder of one of its own citizens, who was also a journalist and “most importantly a human being who was killed by the same army that the US funds every single year”.

Israel, which has been accused of imposing apartheid on Palestinians by leading rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, receives $3.8bn in military aid from Washington annually.

On Thursday, Lina called on journalists to press the Biden administration to play a more serious role in investigating the killing. “It’s very important that journalists continue to talk about Shireen because she was a journalist herself,” she said.

The National Press Club had honoured Abu Akleh with its President’s Award on Wednesday, and the Club’s president, Jen Judson, read statements from US lawmakers during the news conference on Thursday.

Dozens of members of Congress have previously urged an independent investigation into the killing. But the Biden administration has so far rejected those calls, insisting that Israel has the ability and will to investigate its own forces – a claim that rights advocates have rejected, citing numerous killings and massacres against Palestinians that were never adequately investigated.

Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement to the Press Club, read out by Judson on Thursday, that US legislators will not allow Abu Akleh’s killing to be “swept under the rug”.

“It’s up to all of us to protect and defend the free press,” Van Hollen said.

“That’s why so many of us on Capitol Hill have called for a credible, independent and transparent investigation into Shireen’s death.

“I’m sorry to say that no such independent inquiry has been conducted to date. And as of today, members of Congress have not received adequate responses to the inquiries we have made to the Biden administration.”

Congressman Andre Carson, who introduced in July the Justice for Shireen Act, a bill that would require a report from the Department of State and FBI on the killing of Abu Akleh, said the truth is the “bare minimum” to ensure justice in the case.

“One hundred and thirteen days – that’s how much time has passed since Shireen Abu Akleh was killed,” Carson said in his statement.

“It’s the amount of time her family has been grieving and searching for answers. It’s the amount of time that Israel has denied responsibility and shown a lack of reverence for her life. And it’s the amount of time Shireen’s family has been working to seek justice and ensure that her death was not in vain.”

The congressman pledged to “never stop fighting for justice”.

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