Family of 'hero' British surgeon Abbas Khan hit out at Government's 'entirely unacceptable' response to detention and killing in Syria

'They could have done more to save my brother and bring him home, but they decided not to'

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The Independent Online

The family of the British surgeon murdered while he was detained in Syria have demanded action and called the Government’s response so far “entirely unacceptable”.

A jury inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice has found that Dr Abbas Khan was intentionally killed without justification by the Syrian authorities. They had maintained that Khan had hanged himself in his prison cell.

Chief Coroner Peter Thornton said the 32-year-old orthopedic surgeon had travelled to Syria to use his medical skill to help people there during the country's civil war, which his family said made him a “hero”.

At no point during the two-week hearing was any evidence presented indicating that Dr Khan had gone to Syria to fight for the rebels trying to remove President Bashar al-Assad.

After Dr Khan’s grieving mother campaigned tirelessly for the Government to bring her son home, David Cameron sent her a letter last December calling the death “a sickening and appalling tragedy” and said the Syrian regime had to answer for it.

In an appearance on London Live today, Dr Khan’s sister Sara and brother Afroze said they were “relieved and pleased” the jury was able to decide he had been unlawfully killed.

But Sara Khan said the Foreign Office (FCO)’s failure to save the surgeon was “entirely unacceptable”.

“We have seen throughout the inquest that the British Government has not entirely severed ties with the Syrian regime,” she said.

“They can’t take this position where they sit back and let events take their course – it’s entirely unacceptable.

“They could have done more to save my brother and bring him home, but they decided not to. Other nations have been seen to do it – there is no excuse for the FCO not to have taken those measures.”

Afroze Khan said his brother had been an “inspiration” for thousands of Britons. “Many respect what he did and will hopefully be inspired by his actions to do similar things,” he said.

“The next step is to find out who killed him and why, and we will first be looking to our own Government to see what action they will take given the fact that a British citizen has been killed abroad.”

Foreign Office Middle East specialist Tobias Ellwood said the Syrian government had refused to allow British diplomats access to Khan while he was in prison. He called the killing “yet another example of the brutal nature of the Syrian regime, which has killed thousands of innocent civilians”.

Michael Mansfield, the lawyer representing the Khan family, joined Dr Khan’s family in calling for the case to go before the International Criminal Court for further action.

"What the jury has done is uncover the truth — that it was never suicide," he said.

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