Britain Accuses Syria Over Jailed Doctor’s Death

News Brief — Dec 18, 2013

A British junior Foreign Office minister accused Syria on Tuesday of effectively murdering a surgeon who they detained after he volunteered to work at a hospital in the war-torn country.
Abbas Khan, a 32-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from south London, travelled to Aleppo last year to help civilians but was held by Syrian government forces when they recaptured the city.
His family said that the father-of-two had died in detention, days before he was due to be released and handed over to British officials.
While Syrian officials claim that Khan committed suicide, by hanging himself in his cell, British junior Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson said the blame for Khan’s death lay squarely with the Assad regime.
“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,” Robertson told the BBC.
“The fact remains that he went to Syria to help the people of Syria who were affected by the civil war.”
Khan’s family said the Syrian authorities had promised to release him this week but then days later claimed he had committed suicide.
“We thought this Friday was to be the day. The deputy foreign minister of Syria called my mum to say they were going to let him go,” his sister Sara Khan told Britain’s Sky News.
“We were so happy, we started decorating and preparing for his return.”
Whatever the actual circumstances of Khan’s death, the Syrian authorities have really shot themselves in the foot with this. Particularly as they had promised to release him within days.
They’ve also handed anti-Assad forces, who have been covertly assisted by Britain, the U.S. and the Gulf states, with a story that will help divert the world’s attention from their own atrocities.
However Khan’s family have also criticised the British Foreign Office, saying they hadn’t done enough to secure his release.
“We are devastated, distraught and we are angry at the Foreign Office for dragging their feet for 13 months,” Khan’s brother Afroze said.
So British authorities knew of Khan’s plight but did little to help. For almost 13 months. Only now however, with news of his death have they sprung into action with accusations that he had been murdered by the Syrian authorities.
To a cynic it might appear as if Briton’s Foreign Office had actually been waiting for Khan to die. To then exploit his death to the full for its propaganda value.
George Galloway, an outspoken critic of the Iraq War, said he had been preparing to leave for Syria to bring the doctor home but had been stopped in his tracks by Khan’s alleged “suicide”.
“Last week I received a call from the (Syrian) foreign minister telling me that the president had asked him to contact me to come to Damascus to bring Dr Khan home before Christmas,” Galloway said in a statement.
“Obviously this had to be kept confidential but the family were kept fully informed. I was in the process of booking a flight for this Friday when I got the appalling news.”

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