Foreign Office “didn’t do enough” for Dr Abbas Khan

Dr Abbas Khan

The British Foreign Office (FCO) has been accused of not doing enough to help secure the release of Dr Abbas Khan before he died in a Syrian jail.

Dr Khan’s brother said the FCO treated his case as if he were a “wayward traveller in Dubai being caught drunk”.

UK Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson said Dr Khan was “in effect murdered” by the Syrian authorities.

Dr Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from south London, was arrested in northern Syria 48 hours after he arrived. He died just days before his expected release from jail after his arrest in Aleppo last year.

Shahnawaz Khan told the BBC: “It is interesting for the Foreign Office to take that line now. We have been telling them for 13 months that this is a very real possibility.

William Hague reportedly refused to meet the Khan family
William Hague reportedly refused to meet the Khan family

“And they have treated his case like he’s been some wayward traveller in Dubai being caught drunk, and contravened some trivial law in Syria. The fact that this individual was out there helping the humanitarian effort and has been held for 13 months against his will without a charge or a trial or access to a lawyer, and they have offered very little assistance, placated us throughout.”

It has also been reported that Foreign Minister William Hague rejected many requests from the family over the past year for a meeting about Dr Abbas’s predicament.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for David Cameron said: “The Prime Minister extends his sincerest condolences to Dr Khan’s family. It is obviously a very difficult time for them.

“We have been in regular contact with them throughout Dr Khan’s detention and we have also raised his case with the Syrian regime.”

Cameron said the doctor’s death was “further evidence of the brutality of that regime”.


Meanwhile, the Syrian government has told the family of Dr Khan that it can send a team to Damascus to investigate his death.

Syrian authorities have said their post-mortem examination showed he killed himself while in detention, by hanging himself with his pyjamas.

But his family has said this is not credible as he was due to be released.

Dr Khan’s brother said that it was “pure fiction” that Mr Khan had committed suicide and he had written to family saying he was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.

Bradford West MP George Galloway has been negotiating for months with the Syrian government over the release of Dr Khan and was due to fly out this week to bring him home.

George Galloway was due to return home with Dr Abbas
George Galloway was due to return home with Dr Abbas

He has called Dr Khan’s death “murder most foul” and has suggested that Dr Khan was killed by someone acting against Bashar al Assad who wanted to scupper the release.

“I think we will have to wait for clarification on how exactly he died,” said Galloway, “but this is heartbreaking and devastating news for his family who have been working so hard for so long to secure his release. Particularly because his freedom had been agreed and he was due to return with me in the next few days. My sincere condolences go out to his family whose pain is unbearable.”

Galloway said that he had been due to fly out to Damascus this Friday having been promised that he would be returning to Britain with Dr Abbas.

“I have been in contact with the Syrian government many times, up to and including the president, the foreign minister, the justice minister and other ministers. Last week I received a call from the foreign minister telling me that the president had asked him to contact me to come to Damascus to bring Dr Khan home before Christmas.

“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.”

The MP added: “I have spent the last few days dealing with our Foreign Office and the Syrian foreign minister, working out travel arrangements for the hazardous trip, as well as security arrangements. Dr Khan’s family have also been talking to them, arranging an emergency passport.

“If the family think that I can be of any assistance in dealing with the Syrian government, or can help in any way, I am at their service. This is just such a terrible tragedy.”

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