British surgeon killed unlawfully in Syrian jail: London court
A British surgeon who died in a Syrian prison last year days before his planned release was unlawfully killed, a London jury investigating the case ruled on Monday.
Abbas Khan, a 32-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from London, was detained in Syria almost two years ago and found dead in a prison cell last December.
His family said Khan had been arrested in the northern city of Aleppo within 48 hours of arriving in Syria to volunteer as an emergency doctor and had not hanged himself days before his scheduled release, as the Syrian authorities had said.
Hundreds of Western Europeans are suspected of travelling to Syria to fight with Islamic State insurgents who have seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. The Khan family had always said that Abbas Khan had gone to the region solely to offer his medical services.
“We have always maintained that he was mistreated, maltreated and tortured by the Syrian authorities … (and that) he was murdered by the Syrians,” Khan’s brother Afroze told reporters outside court in central London.
“Today, our position as a family has been vindicated completely. All the aspersions and allegations against my brother – that he had gone for any other reason apart from helping the innocent civilians – have been disproved today.”
His mother Fatima spent five months in Damascus working for her son’s release, but when she went to pick him up in December 2013 she was told he had killed himself.
“He was not a man that was in despair or had lost hope,” Afroze told Reuters in an interview shortly afterwards. “He wasn’t in that state of mind. He was cheerful. That sort of man doesn’t commit suicide. It is a falsehood for anyone to say otherwise.”
The British Foreign Office said it supported the court inquest and was considering its next steps.
“Dr. Khan’s imprisonment without consular access was unacceptable,” said Foreign Office Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood, saying Britain had made repeated requests for his detention to be reviewed.
“The Syrian regime ignored these approaches. It can no longer do so. His family deserve answers and those responsible for Dr. Khan’s death should be brought to justice.”
A subdued Fatima Khan told reporters on Monday she welcomed the ruling but said governments around the world, including the British, had failed to help her son.
“I’m proud but I’m hurt, I lost my son,” she said, adding that he had gone to save lives.