Syria defends jailing of UK doctor

Syrian reports say a British doctor alleged to have been effectively murdered in custody had hanged himself after being arrested for “unauthorised activities”.


“British citizen Abbas Khan entered Syrian territory illegally and undertook unauthorised activities… the cause of death being asphyxia caused by hanging,” said a medical report cited by the official 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”.

On Tuesday, Britain’s junior Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson said the Damascus regime was responsible for Khan’s death.

“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.

The Syrian foreign ministry has forwarded the report on Khan’s death to the embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus, which represents British interests.

Britain closed its embassy in March 2012 in protest at the Syrian government crackdown on what began as peaceful protests before becoming an armed rebellion.

“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.

“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.

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