"I think we will have to wait for clarification on how exactly he died," said Galloway, "but this is heartbreaking and devastating news for his family who have been working so hard for so long to secure his release. Particularly because his freedom had been agreed and he was due to return with me in the next few days. My sincere condolences go out to his family whose pain is unbearable."
Dr Khan, a young orthopaedic surgeon, had been seized by Syrian government troops in Aleppo in November last year after he entered the country on a humanitarian mission, but without a visa. His death was intimated to the family yesterday.
Galloway said that he had been due to fly out to Damascus this Friday having been promised that he would be returning to Britain with Dr Abbas. "I have been in contact with the Syrian government many times, up to and including the president, the foreign minister, the justice minister and other ministers. Last week I received a call from the foreign minister telling me that the president had asked him to contact me to come to Damascus to bring Dr Khan home before Christmas. Obviously this had to be kept confidential but the family were kept fully informed. I was in the process of booking a flight for this Friday when I got the appalling news."
The MP added: "I have spent the last few days dealing with our Foreign Office and the Syrian foreign minister, working out travel arrangements for the hazardous trip, as well as security arrangements. Dr Khan's family have also been talking to them, arranging an emergency passport.
"If the family think that I can be of any assistance in dealing with the Syrian government, or can help in any way, I am at their service. This is just such a terrible tragedy."
Further information: Ron McKay on 07980 675998