London

Abbas Khan: Syria prison death surgeon's body examined

Abbas Khan Image copyright PA
Image caption Abbas Khan's family say he was murdered by the Syrian authorities

Experts on the use of chemicals in torture are to carry out tests on the body of a British surgeon who died in custody in Syria.

The Syrian regime claims Abbas Khan killed himself but his family insist he was murdered by the authorities.

The 32-year-old from Streatham, south London, died on 17 December.

His family attended a pre-inquest hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice where details of the British authorities' investigation were given.

The hearing was told that further examination of a sample of the father-of-two's hair is to be carried out.

This would include tests for "chemical agents", the family's counsel, Michael Mansfield QC, said.

Dr Khan was captured in November 2012 in the city of Aleppo after travelling from Turkey to help victims of hospital bombings.

'Indulge in torture'

The Syrian authorities say his body was found hanging in a jail cell.

Mr Mansfield told the hearing: "In a scientific context there is a desire by the family to ensure that if this kind of investigation is going to be taken further they would like to seek the further assistance of those experts who might be familiar with the kind of chemicals that are used by states who indulge in torture.

"The request is obviously a desire to find another expert who has experience on the range of substances that might be used, and also to examine other aspects of this beyond the hair, for example the clothing, and whether the clothing is stained in any way by any chemicals that might have been used."

Counsel for the inquest, Samantha Leek QC, gave an update on the Scotland Yard investigation, saying officers had taken a number of witness statements including from members of the Syrian British Medical Society and from a medical colleague of Dr Khan's from the Syrian National Co-ordination Body.

She said statements had also been given by politicians, including Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who was accused by Dr Khan's family of thwarting a mission to save the British doctor while he was being held in Syria.

A full jury inquest into Dr Khan's death will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice, with a provisional start date of 13 October.

More on this story