MP George Galloway has told an inquest into the death of Dr Abbas Khan in a Syrian prison of his belief that the surgeon was murdered.
Dr Khan, a 32-year-old father-of-two from London, died on December 16 2013 while in custody in Damascus.
His family claim he was murdered, but the Syrian government has always maintained that he killed himself.
The Respect MP for Bradford West said he was first contacted by Dr Khan’s family in January 2013, two months after he was captured in Aleppo after travelling from Turkey to help victims of hospital bombings.
Mr Galloway said he began lobbying quite hard behind the scenes with the Syrians for Dr Khan’s release.
After being told by Syria’s deputy foreign minister that the president had agreed to release Dr Khan, he made arrangements to fly out to Syria on December 20, but then heard from Dr Khan’s sister that he had been found dead.
Mr Galloway said: “I pulled the car over. I was very upset about it - shocked.
“I immediately called the deputy foreign minister who told me that Dr Khan had committed suicide and went into details of how. He said ‘I beg you to believe what I am telling you’ and I told him that I did not believe him.
“I said ‘I can believe that you believe what you are saying but I don’t believe those circumstances as they have been described and nobody else will believe it either. And I must tell you that I will not be able to pretend that I believe it. I will have to publicly state that I don’t believe it.”
Mr Galloway said it seemed “absurd” that someone who was joyous about being imminently released and reunited with his small children would commit suicide.
He said: “I wasn’t there. I can’t say for certain what happened, but the overwhelming unlikelihood of that leads me to conclude that he was murdered.
“I haven’t heard from Damascus since so I am definitely off the Christmas card list.”
Mr Galloway added that the only people who would have the ability to murder a high-profile prisoner in defiance of the president and the foreign ministry would be Syrian intelligence.
The inquest continues