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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Ex-Carlisle doctor found dead in Syrian prison

A former Carlisle surgeon has died while being detained in a Syrian prison.

Abbas Khan photo
Dr Abbas Khan

Dr Abbas Khan, a 31-year-old father of two, who worked at the city's Cumberland Infirmary, disappeared more than a year ago.

He had been held in a notorious military prison after travelling to the country to help victims of the bloody conflict.

A series of messages on the Free Dr Abbas Khan Twitter page speak about his death in the week he was due to be released.

The trainee consultant orthopaedic surgeon had worked at The Cumberland Infirmary between August 2010 and August 2011, based in the orthopaedics department as a surgical registrar.

Shortly after leaving Carlisle, he volunteered for a humanitarian mission, taking £20,000 of medical supplies to Syria and working in a field hospital in the rebel-held city Aleppo, in the north west.

He is understood to have gone into the country without a valid visa. He was arrested in Aleppo by Government security staff, who may have suspected he had treated injured opposition fighters.

He was initially detained at the Far Falastin detention centre near Damascus, which has a reputation for brutality. According to some sources, Dr Khan was beaten by his interrogators and then held for eight months in dimly lit underground cell.

In July, his mother Fatima risked her life by going to Syria to trace her missing son.

She said, when he was found, his physical condition was “skeletal, and he was so weak he could barely walk”.

Although still being held, he had been transferred to another prison.

“He told me that he had been through eight months of hell and at times he simply wanted to die,” said Mrs Khan, 57, from south west London. “He was getting trouble from both sides.

“As well as the guards, other prisoners turned on him just because he was British.”

Reports indicate that Dr Khan, of Streatham, south London, was found hanged at the state interrogation centre at Kfar Soussa in Damascus.

Amnesty International said Dr Khan’s death reinforced the need for Britain to press the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International’s UK Syria campaign manager, said: “We don’t know the full circumstances yet, but this is yet another deeply troubling death in custody in Syria.

“We know all too well that the torture of detainees is widespread and committed with impunity by the Syrian authorities, with detainees often crowded into vermin-infested cells, denied urgently-needed medical treatment and even abused by medical staff.

“The UK government should denounce Dr Khan’s death in the strongest possible terms and ensure that, no matter how long it takes, whoever is responsible is brought to justice.”

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