British surgeon Abbas Khan died in prison in Syria after over a year in detention, just days before he was slated to be handed over to British lawmaker George Galloway.
The 32-year-old orthopedic surgeon originally hailed from South London, but decided to head to Aleppo last year to treat civilians. He was instead caught and imprisoned by the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
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A Syrian government official claimed that Khan had committed suicide in his cell, according to the BBC — a claim Khan's family disputes. An autopsy is under way, and the results will be released to his family.
"My brother was going to be released at the end of the week. We were given assurance by the Syrian government," said Khan's brother, in a quote given to the BBC. "He was happy and looking forward to being released."
"We are devastated, distraught and we are angry at the Foreign Office for dragging their feet for 13 months," he added.
Khan, who ran the @FreeDRABBASKHAN Twitter account, informed his followers of the sad news on Tuesday:
Fatima Khan, the surgeon's mother, was permitted to visit her son several times during his captivity. She was informed of his death when she headed to the prison the last time, assuming that he would be released.
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights' founder Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse the group believed in the "overwhelming likelihood he died of torture, because there are hundreds of similar cases in which the regime says a prisoner committed suicide when in fact they were tortured to death,