Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#DrAbbasKhan: "Syria Has Murdered a British National"

The family of a British-Asian surgeon who died whilst volunteering at a hospital in Syria have spoken of their despair and how they were "betrayed" by the British government.

Dr Abbas Khan, 32, from South London, was arrested and jailed by the Syrian government in November 2012 while he was working for the charity Human Aid in the war-torn city of Aleppo. He was accused of entering to the country without a proper visa.

His fate was unknown for several months before his mother travelled to Syria this summer and found her son emaciated and tortured in prison.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague weeks later, Dr Khan described his plight: "I have been violently forced to beat other prisoners, kept in squalid conditions, denied access to toilets or medical treatment.

Repeated bouts of diarrhoea and chronic dermatological infection saw me lose 40-50 per cent of my body weight. I have also experienced male prisoners being beaten to death and female prisoners screaming as they were being abused."

Syrian authorities had promised Dr Khan would be released this week, but instead his family were told he had committed suicide in prison.

His brother Afroze however, rejected the claim, telling the BBC that his brother was looking forward to finally coming home.

"My brother was going to be released at the end of the week. We were given assurance by the Syrian government.

My brother knew that. He was ready to come back home. He was happy and looking forward to being released."
Afroze also said that his family felt betrayed by the Foreign Office which he said had "dragged their feet" for more than a year.

Dr Khan's sister Sara told the Daily Mail that Foreign secretary William Hague should be "ashamed".

"My brother wrote two letters to Mr Hague asking him for help. He snuck them out through the prison bars when my mother visited him.

He didn't reply, and he is yet to speak to us about it", she said.

"He should be ashamed, he should be embarrassed. He could have helped the situation, if they took a stronger role in this and we wouldn't have had to see this day. Would he like to come and explain what has happened to his kids?

She also criticized the Foreign Office for sitting by as Dr Khan's elderly mother was forced to travel to Damascus.

"My mother has been a housewife for 30 years. She's never been abroad alone, she's from India, she doesn't speak Arabic.

She went out to Syria, she searched for him, she should have brought him back. That was what was keeping her and the whole family going."

On Tuesday, Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson said Syria had "effectively murdered" Dr Khan.

Mr Robertson told the BBC: "Dr Khan went to Syria to help the people of Syria. There is no excuse whatsoever for the treatment he suffered by the Syrian authorities who have in effect murdered a British National.

Dr Abbas's mother Fatima and brother Afroze are currently in Beirut, Lebanon. This afternoon they received confirmation from the Syrian government that they would be able to repatriate his body to the UK, bringing some relief to his family.

Hundreds of people have died in Syrian government jails since the Civil War erupted nearly three years ago.

According to rights groups, torture of detainees by Syrian authorities is widespread with prisoners crammed in horrific conditions, abused and denied medical treatment.



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