The mother of killed British doctor Abbas Khan could not save her son despite her “superhuman” attempts to free him from a Syrian jail, an inquest has heard.
A jury at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today ruled that he was “deliberately and intentionally killed” in Damascus in December 2013, days before he was due to be released.
Syrian authorities claimed the 32-year-old hung himself in his cell but his family have always been adamant he was killed.
Dr Khan left his wife and two children in London to work as an orthopaedic surgeon helping victims of Syria’s civil war but was arrested by government forces in November 2012.
He told his family that treating civilian women and children injured by the regime’s bombing campaigns was classed as an act of terrorism by Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The father-of-two was held incommunicado for almost a year, when his mother, Fatima Khan, travelled to Syria numerous times and visited embassies, ministries and prisons attempting to find out where he was or whether he was even alive.
Some of the buildings she went to were shaken by bomb blasts, and vans she travelled in came under sniper fire.
“I felt scared, but my son was here so I had to be brave,” she told the inquest.
She would kiss the shoes of officials and beg them to help her, the inquest heard, and was eventually rewarded by seeing him in the Syrian “Court of Terrorism” in July last year.
She told the court: "I hugged him. He was a skeleton. He was in tears. I said 'Look, Mummy is here for you'. He said 'Sorry, I shouldn't have come here, please take me home'.
“His hands were cold as if he was fasting. They were full of black marks and one nail was missing as if someone had taken it off. His feet were completely burnt.
"I said 'What's all this?'. He said 'This is nothing, I have suffered more than this'."
Dr Khan said he was beaten by other inmates and interrogated by five men who tortured him with rubber hoses, leaving him with open wounds which became infected.
His mother was on the day her son died on 16 December, four days before Respect MP George Galloway was due to take him back to the UK after appealing directly to President Assad.
Calling it the "most painful day of my life to remember", the told the inquest she was taken to the prison where Dr Khan was being held and told he was fine when he was given breakfast but, two hours later, was found unwell with foam coming out of his mouth, and a doctor was checking on him.
"The interpreter said 'We think he is 95 per cent dead'. I said 'If there is a 1 per cent chance of life, let's take him to hospital'. The man described as the doctor came back out of the room and shook his head as if to say he was dead," she told the hearing.
When she got back to her hotel, she phoned an official, who told her: "Yes, we killed your son because your son came to kill my son. That's why we killed him."
Syrian officials declared that a Government post-mortem confirmed the cause of death was suicide but Dr Khan's relatives said they had received upbeat letters in recent weeks and he would not have killed himself so close to being reunited with his family and going home.
Mrs Khan was seen wiping away tears as the inquest jury delivered the verdict her family had long believed.
The forewoman said the cause of Dr Khan’s death was "unascertained" but announced he was “deliberately and intentionally killed without any legal justification.”
Asked what the jury's conclusion was “as to the death”, she replied: “Unlawful killing.”
The chief coroner, Judge Peter Thornton, said: “It is clear that he wanted to use his medical skills to help others, and that included helping others in conflict-torn Syria.”
Dr Khan's family, particularly his mother, had made “superhuman” efforts on his behalf, Mr Thornton said, while Mr Galloway, former British National Party leader Nick Griffin and a delegation of Parliamentarians were also involved in unsuccessful bids to free him.
In pictures: Syria conflict
In pictures: Syria conflict
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Syrians carry children amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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Syrians react as they stand amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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An injured Syrian man walks out from the rubble of a destroyed building following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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People stand on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo
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Syrian residents stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo
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A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs
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A general view shows abandoned buildings on a deserted square in the old city of Homs after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas
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A mosque is pictured through shattered glass in the old city of Homs, as rebel fighters withdrew from the city centre in line with a negotiated withdrawal deal with the government after having held out under tight siege for nearly two years
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Buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs. Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, hundreds of Syrian rebels left their last remaining bastions in the heart of the central city of Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians will mark a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning it the nickname of "capital of the revolution"
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Syrian government forces hold up a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad (L) while others raise the national flag on top of a pole in the old city of Homs
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad run through Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr crossing after their release by rebels. They were freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several locations in northern Syria
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A Syrian woman and two children walk past heavily damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo
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A man carries a wounded girl following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A wounded man sits as he is treated at a makeshift hospital following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Sakhour district of the northern city of Aleppo
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Debris rises in what Free Syrian Army fighters and Islamic rebels said was an operation to strike Al-Sahaba checkpoint, which is considered a gateway to Al-Dayf valley, and remove forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province
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Men try to put out fire at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Civil Defence members try to put out fire
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Survivors react at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Residents queue as they wait to receive food aid distributed by the UNRWA at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus
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Belongings of Syrian rebels inside a chapel at Crac des Chevaliers, the world's best preserved medieval Crusader castle in Syria. The village was destroyed in fighting between the government and rebel forces while the castle, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, also has been damaged over the past two years
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Hosen Sabah, a 16-year-old student is comforted by his mother at a hospital in Damascus. Nosen was wounded by a mortar outside his school, while 14 other students were killed and over 80 wounded
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A Free Syrian Army fighter works on a locally made launcher before firing it towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Mork town
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Syrian policemen and citizens inspecting the site of a car bomb at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus. According to Syria's Arab News Agency (SANA), a car bomb explosion has gone off in the countryside of Damascus and initial information say there are casualties, where a car rigged with explosions was remotely detonated at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus during engineering units it was trying to dismantled it
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Opposition fighters carrying a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man helps a woman to make her way through debris following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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A Syrian man reacts as he carries the body of injured boy following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 33 civilians were killed in the attack
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Syrian rescue workers carry the body of a woman following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
Mr Galloway told the inquest the only people with the ability to murder a high-profile prisoner in defiance of the President would be Syrian intelligence, while Mr Griffin suggested Dr Khan may have been forced to kill himself.
Outside court, Dr Khan's brother, Afroze Khan, said: “Twelve months we have waited for this verdict. As a family, we have always maintained that our brother was an innocent man who travelled to Syria for no other reason than helping injured civilians in the conflict.
"We have always maintained that he was mistreated, maltreated and tortured by the Syrian authorities and that he was murdered by the Syrians.
“Today, our position as a family has been vindicated completely. All the allegations against my brother - that he had gone for any other reason - have been disproved today.”
Dr Khan's mother said she was grateful to the jury and described her son as “angelic”.
“There was no justice in Syria like we have British justice here - no court, no justice - otherwise my son would have been released," she added.
"I couldn't save my son. I trusted judges, lawyers and minister but everyone lied to me. They stabbed me in my back."
The family's counsel, Michael Mansfield QC, will push for the case to go forward to the International Criminal Court.Reuse content