Britain investigates death of British-Indian surgeon in Syria

An inquest into the death of a 32-year-old Indian-origin British doctor under mysterious circumstances in a Syrian jail opened on Monday at a UK court.

London: An inquest into the death of a 32-year-old Indian-origin British doctor under mysterious circumstances in a Syrian jail opened on Monday at a UK court.

Shah Abbas Khan was arrested by Syrian forces in the rebel-held city of Aleppo in November 2012 after he entered the country on a humanitarian mission without a visa.

The orthopaedic surgeon from south London was due to be released in December 2013 when his death was announced.

Khan's family claim he was murdered while being held but the Syrian government has always maintained that Khan committed suicide by hanging himself in a prison cell.

Chief coroner Peter Thornton told a jury of seven men and four women at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today that Khan was a National Health Service (NHS) "medical man" and that there is no evidence or information that he went to Syria to fight.

"On the contrary he wanted to humanitarian and medical aid," Judge Thornton added.

He also spoke of the "superhuman efforts" made by Khan's family, especially his mother Fatima, to seek his freedom.

"During that period of a year while in custody his family made superhuman efforts to try to get him released.

"In particular, his mother, Fatima, was extraordinarily persistent," Judge Thornton told the jury.

The coroner said the main issues for the jury to consider after hearing all the evidence were likely to be whether Khan took his own life, was he forced by his captors to take his own life against his will, or was he unlawfully killed by his captors.

Khan is survived by his wife, a seven-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.

The inquest is set to last around three weeks. 

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