UK minister: Syria has 'in effect' murdered doctor

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 1:30 PM

LONDON (AP) — A minister in Britain's Foreign Office accused the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday of effectively murdering a U.K. doctor held in Syrian custody, saying there is no excuse for the treatment of Dr. Abbas Khan.

Khan, a 32-year-old orthopedic surgeon from London, was seized by government troops in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012 after he entered the country on a humanitarian mission.

Hugh Robertson, the head of the foreign office's Mideast remit, lashed out at Syrian authorities, saying "the fact remains" that Khan went to Syrian to help the people there suffering amid a civil war.

"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," Robertson said in televised remarks.

The Foreign Office had said earlier that it was "extremely concerned" by reports Khan had died in detention and that if true the responsibility for Khan's death lies with Syrian authorities.

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government to Associated Press queries about the case.

News of Khan's death was first reported by the BBC, citing his brother Afroze, who said the Syrian National Security Agency had promised the doctor's release this week but on Monday said he had died.

"We are devastated, distraught, and we are angry at the Foreign Office for dragging their feet for 13 months," the brother told the broadcaster, adding that the doctor had been "looking forward" to being released.

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The Foreign Office said in a statement that Syrian authorities have consistently ignored requests for consular access to Khan and information about his detention.

U.K. lawmaker George Galloway said he had been in contact with high-level Syrian officials "many times" about Khan and was supposed to fly to Damascus on Friday to bring the doctor home.

"I think we will have to wait for clarification on how exactly he died, but this is heartbreaking and devastating news for his family, who have been working so hard for so long to secure his release," Galloway said.


AP reporters Raphael Satter in London and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this story.


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