UK & World News

  • 23 December 2013, 0:05

Syria 'Must Answer' For Brit Surgeon's Death

The Prime Minister has called for those responsible for the death of a British surgeon while in custody in Syria to be held to account.

He wrote a letter to Abbas Khan's motherFatimaon Friday, describing her son's death as an "appalling tragedy".

It reads: "Abbas' death is a sickening and appalling tragedy and it is right that the Syrian regime should answer for it.

"Their despicable treatment of him and refusal to engage with us or the Czechs to enable us to support him is utterly unacceptable.

"We will continue to press for those responsible to be held to account."

Married father-of-two Dr Khan, 32, was arrested more than a year ago after travelling to the rebel-held city of Aleppo to treat injured civilians.

His family believe he was abused while in custody and have blamed the Syrian regime for his death, despite claims by authorities in Damascus that he took his own life.

The orthopaedic surgeon was on the verge of being released from prison and being allowed home for Christmas.

Mrs Khan and Abbas' brother Afroze arrived at London's HeathrowAirport from Beirut on the plane carrying his coffin, which has been taken to Romford Hospital.

She accused the Assad regime of murdering her son.

She 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."

Abbas' brother Shahnawazand sister Sara told Sky News the family felt let down by British authorities.

He said: "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."

He also dismissed allegations the surgeon had jihadi links and had "picked sides" in the Syrian civil war.

Sara Khan added: "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."

Michael Mansfield QC, a criminal barrister who has been advising the Khan family, said: "Once his body is taken to the place of burial...the coroner for that area - because it is a sudden, unnatural and violent death - has an obligation to investigate.

"Dr Khan was due to be released within two or three days, it's most unlikely that someone with the prospect of freedom having been incarcerated for 13 months would take their own life."

A Foreign Office (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."

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