Body of British doctor flown back to UK

The body of a British doctor who mysteriously died in a Syrian jail has been flown back to London, Heathrow Airport says.

An airport spokeswoman said the body of Abbas Khan, who Britain claims was "effectively murdered" by the Syrian regime, arrived in London early on Sunday (local time) after being flown home from Beirut.

The Syrian government claims the 32-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, who was arrested last year after travelling to Aleppo to treat wounded civilians, committed suicide.

His body was brought to Lebanon on Saturday and returned to his family, who have dismissed suggestions that he took his own life just days before he was due to be freed and handed over to a British MP.

Khan's sister Sara on Sunday described the regime's explanation for his death, which was announced earlier this week, as "despicable".

"We want the British government to help the family in getting those answers from the Syrians as somebody needs to own up for this absolutely cruel injustice that has been done to my brother," she told Sky News.

The family say Khan paid the ultimate price for trying to help innocent civilians caught up in Syria's brutal 33-month war.

The doctor's brother, Shah Nawaz Khan, blasted Britain's handling of the case and suggested that British authorities - like their Syrian counterparts - had been suspicious about the doctor because he was a Muslim of Indian origin.

"In Syria, he's been executed for being British - and he's been let down by his own government for not being British enough," he told Sky News.

"The accusations that they've made to us were ... one, that he'd entered without a visa, and two that he was fixing the bones of individuals in rebel-held areas. The accusation of any sort of terrorist or nefarious activities has never been levied to us," he added.

"The only reason why that question is raised is because he's a British Muslim, and throughout he's been treated with a degree of suspicion or circumspect by their authorities - and unfortunately, by the authorities in the British government."

Syria has said Khan was being held for "unauthorised activities" and that he was found hanging in his cell.

His family had campaigned for months to get him released and insist he was due to be freed just days after he was found dead.

- AFP

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