London, Dec 17 (PTI)
A 32-year-old Indian-origin British surgeon, imprisoned in Syria for over a year after volunteering to help the victims of violence in the war-torn country, has died in detention, his family said Tuesday.
Dr Abbas Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from Streatham, south London, travelled to the city of Aleppo last year to help civilians.
His brother Afroze said the Syrian National Security Agency had promised his release this week butMonday it said he had died, BBC reported.
â€œMy brother was going to be released at the end of the week. We were given assurance by the Syrian government. My brother knew that. He was ready to come back home. He was happy and looking forward to being released,â€ Afroze was quoted as saying by BBC.
â€œWe are devastated, distraught and we are angry at the Foreign Office for dragging their feet for 13 months,â€ he said.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office was quoted as saying, â€œWe are extremely concerned by reports that a British national has died in detention in Syria.â€
Abbas, who was married with two young children, spent a year training as a surgical registrar in Carlisle and also worked at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, a report in The Times said.
He had been volunteering with Human Aid, a charity, during a six-month sabbatical from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, when he went missing, it said.
For five months, Abbasâ€™s family feared that he was dead. Eventually, they tracked him down to a military prison, where he said he had been starved and beaten.
He was transferred to better conditions in a prison outside Damascus, where his mother â€” a British-Indian – has spent the past four months begging Syrian bureaucrats for his release, the report said.
â€œI have kissed the shoes of so many officials,â€ Fatima Khan, 57, was quoted as saying.
Another brother of Abbas, Shahnawaz Khan, also a doctor, has said that the family had little choice but to attribute the lack of progress in securing his release to the fact he is a Muslim of Indian descent.
â€œThere is a creeping sensation that, had my brother been John Smith, there might have been more action by now,â€ Dr Khan, a research fellow at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, northwest London, told The Times last month.