Last updated: 27 December, 2013

Tests awaited on British doctor who died in Syria custody

British authorities are still awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination on a British doctor who died while in custody in Syria, his inquest heard on Friday.

Syrian authorities believe Abbas Khan took his own life, although his family are adamant he was murdered.

A British police officer who is acting as a liaison between the coroners court and the British and Syrian governments told the hearing in London that the Syrian authorities had stated that Khan’s body had been found hanging in a jail cell.

The officer, Detective Chief Inspector Grant Mallon, said the Syrians had said Khan was found dead on December 16, the day he was to go before a terrorism court.

He told the hearing at Walthamstow Coroners Court that Syrian doctors had performed a non-invasive post-mortem and determined the cause of death was “asphyxiation by hanging”.

The officer said Syrian authorities had determined the death was self-inflicted and said Syrian doctors had found “no traces of violence or torture”.

Khan’s body was escorted out of Syria on Saturday by the International Committee of the Red Cross and returned to family members waiting in Lebanon.

Upon arriving back in Britain, the body underwent a CT scan and British doctors also carried out a post-mortem.

The British experts have yet to determine a cause of death as results from toxicology tests are still not available, Mallon said.

The inquest — which will establish a cause of death without attributing blame — was adjourned until February 27.

Khan, a 32-year-old father of two children, was captured in November last year in the war-torn city of Aleppo just 48 hours after entering Syria from Turkey without a visa to help treat victims of hospital bombings.

A funeral service was held at a mosque in London on Thursday. His brother Shahnawaz described him as “our star”.

Khan’s family have accused the British government of failing to do enough to secure his freedom.

But British officials said they had “consistently sought” consular access to him, both directly and through other countries