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Inquest into death of Indian-origin doc killed in Syria opens

Friday, 27 December 2013 - 9:25pm IST | Agency: PTI

An inquest into the death of a 32-year-old Indian-origin British doctor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Syrian prison opened today at a UK court. The inquest into Shah Abbas Khan's death began at the Walthamstow Coroners Court and was adjourned later in the day.

Khan died days before he was due to be released, and his family believe he was murdered by the Syrian regime.

A Syrian coroner who examined him found no signs of violence. No cause of death has been released following a post mortem conducted in the UK.

A British police Detective Chief Inspector who is acting as a liaison between the coroners court and the British and Syrian governments spoke at the short hearing. He said the Syrian authorities say prison guards found Khan dead in his cell on December 16, the day when he was due to appear before a terrorism court.

The orthopaedic surgeon from south London was arrested in November last year by troops of President Bashar al-Assad within 48 hours of entering Syria to work in a field hospital in the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo.

Khan entered Syria without a visa, and later told his family he was "accused of treating dying civilians (women and children), which has been classed as an act of terrorism".

His family has said they possess a letter in which Khan talked of his optimism at being released, and his hopes of being home in time for Christmas.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Khan's mother Fatima last week, calling his death a "sickening and appalling tragedy".

The UK Foreign Office has said the doctor had been "in effect murdered" by the Syrian authorities and at best his death was "extremely suspicious".

Khan's family has criticised the British government for not doing more to secure Khan's release. His distraught mother, Fatima, was comforted by family members after the funeral.

"Nobody help me, I love my son. I am the loser. I'm the failure. I beg everybody. I touch everyone's feet. Please give me my son," she said.

The Syrian government has said Khan's family is welcome to send a team to Damascus to investigate his death.

Khan is survived by his wife, a seven-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. Khan's brother Shahnawaz described him as a "star" and the "kindest and simplest man I've ever met".

"We are very angry at the failures of the British government at securing the release of my brother and now that he is dead we want to see the British government act decisively to respond to the death of a British citizen at the hands of a foreign regime," Khan's brother Afroze was quoted as saying.

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