A British doctor who died in a Syrian jail just days before he was due to be released committed suicide, Damascus authorities said on Wednesday. The British government says Abbas Khan was “effectively murdered”.
Syria’s state news agency reported that government officials had handed over a medical report detailing the death of the London doctor, Abbas Khan, to a representative of the Czech Embassy, which has represented Britain in Syria since London closed its embassy in March 2012.
“British citizen Abbas Khan entered Syrian territory illegally and undertook unauthorised activities... the cause of death being asphyxia caused by hanging,” said the report, cited by the official Syrian SANA news agency.
“The hanging was an individual act, that is to say it was committed by the person himself with the aim of taking his own life,” the report said.
It added that tests on the body of the 32-year-old orthopaedic surgeon had shown “no trace of violence or resistance.”
Khan was set to be released
The Syrian foreign ministry confirmed that Khan was on the verge of being released when he died in custody.
“Syria was on the point of handing over this citizen to his mother and to British MP George Galloway who had intervened to ask that Abbas Khan be pardoned,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad, according to the SANA report.
“Syria’s decision to pardon this British citizen was taken on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year, as a gift from the Syrian people to the British people,” he said.
Muqdad did not say when Khan’s body would be repatriated.
Britain says Khan ‘murdered’
Syrian government troops seized Khan in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012 after he entered the country on a humanitarian mission.
His brother said their mother went to visit Khan in jail in Damascus on Monday, but was told that he was dead.
On Tuesday, Britain's junior Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson accused the Syrian government of effectively murdering Khan.
“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,” Robinson said.
Human Aid UK also said it was "incomprehensible" that Khan would commit suicide just a few days before he was hoping to return home and called for a "full investigation."
Khan's brother Shahnawaz told the BBC on Wednesday that it was "pure fiction" that Khan had committed suicide, as he had written to relatives saying he was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-18