UK & World News
Syrian Regime 'Killed My Son' Claims Mother
The mother of British doctor Abbas Khan, who died while in custody in Syria, has accused the Assad regime of murdering her son as she brought his body back to England.
The 32-year-old father of two - and one of seven siblings - was arrested more than a year ago after travelling to the rebel-held city of Aleppo to treat injured civilians.
Dr Khan's family believe he was abused while in custody and have blamed the Syrian regime for his death, despite authorities in Damascus claiming he took his own life.
The married British surgeon was due to be released from prison and allowed home for Christmas.
His mother Fatima Khan and brother Afroze arrived at London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday afternoon from Beirut on the plane carrying his coffin which has been taken to Romford Hospital.
Mrs Khan said: "I don't know why they killed my son. I want to ask why on the release date they killed my son. I want answers why they killed my son.
"They are liars, every ministry there in Damascus is full of lies. They killed my son.
"He was in a civilian prison and on Friday it was a holiday in Damascus ... and they went and picked him up, a helpless guy, brought him, kept him two days, tortured him more and they killed him Monday morning."
Dr Khan's body was received by his family in Lebanon on Saturday - almost a week after his death - who intend to bury their loved one as soon as possible.
His brother and sister, Shahnawaz and Sara Khan, told Sky News earlier that nobody has explained to the family how or why he died and that they feel he was let down by the British authorities.
Shahnawaz Khan told Sky News: "We are still unclear why there's been such a protracted process in releasing his body.
"Everything that the Syrian government has done over these past 13 months to us has been arduous and has inflicted much insult upon us. I guess this was their final attempt to inflict as much misery upon us as they could.
"They had already embalmed him and carried out some tests that we had requested them not to.
"It has been a difficult time. We haven't had a chance to grieve properly because we are still fighting to get him back."
Sara Khan said: "We still haven't been given a clear explanation as to what happened to him, which is absolutely despicable, that the Syrians can feel that they can give us multiple explanations for his death.
"We want the British Government to help the family in getting those answers from the Syrians as somebody needs to own up for this absolutely cruel injustice that has been done to my brother."
The family has criticised what they said was a lack of support given to them by the Foreign Office during Dr Khan's incarceration.
Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson has said: "There is no excuse whatsoever for the treatment that he has suffered by the Syrian authorities who have in effect murdered a British national who was in their country to help people injured during their civil war."
An FCO spokesman said on Sunday: "Responsibility for Dr Khan's death lies with the Syrian authorities and we are pressing for answers about what happened. As Mr Robertson, the Minister of State for the Middle East, said there can be no excuse whatsoever for the treatment Dr Khan suffered from the Syrian authorities.
"We are in regular contact with Dr Khan's family and are providing consular support to them.
"We consistently sought consular access to Dr Khan and information on his detention, directly and through the Russians, Czechs and others. In November, Minister Robertson wrote making clear our concerns about his welfare and treatment, stressing that the regime's failure to provide any information indicating Dr Khan's continued detention was legitimate meant his position should be reviewed immediately. These requests were consistently ignored.
"All UK consular services in Syria were suspended some time ago and we continue to advise against all travel to Syria."
Claims that the surgeon had picked sides and had jihadi links, and was in the country without a visa, were dismissed by his brother.
"The accusation of any sort of terrorist activities has never been levied to us," Shahnawaz Khan said.
"There is no sense that he was ever involved in any sort of activities.
"The only reason why that question is raised is because he is a British Muslim, and throughout he has been treated with a degree of suspicion by their authorities and unfortunately the authorities in the British Government.
"In Syria he has been executed for being British and he has been let down by his own government for not being British enough."
He added: "We will have to move on, but moving on now will include attaining some answers around the circumstances of his death and the steps that could have possibly saved him."
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