Monday, 15 November 2010

UK MPs accused of ‘abandoning’ gay Briton arrested by Syrian secret police

Alan Duncan outside The Houses of ParliamentGay Tory MP Alan Duncan  
Source: Daily Mail
By Glen Owen

Three senior Tories have been accused of ‘abandoning’ a Syrian-born Briton who is being held by secret police in Damascus.

Sebastian Akkam, 31, an openly gay shop owner, has been denied access to UK consular staff since his arrest last month. No reason has been given for his detention.

His brother Mohammed said Sebastian had been let down by British establishment ‘friends’ he identified as MP Alan Duncan and former MPs Richard Spring and Michael Portillo.

The trio have privately expressed surprise as to why their names are being linked to the case.

Mr Akkam, who changed his name from Abdo in tribute to Oscar Wilde’s pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth, runs a shop in Damascus which has a shrine to Wilde – a risky move in a country where homosexuality carries a jail sentence.

As a teenager he was held naked for several weeks and badly beaten by the secret police. In 2006 he moved to the UK and took out citizenship on entering into a civil partnership, now dissolved, with a British man.

Mohammed says his brother was anxious about returning to Syria to visit their sick mother but claims in a phone call last month, Mr Spring, a director of the British Syrian Society, said his passport would protect him.

It is thought Mr Spring met him on a few visits to the shop. Mr Duncan and Mr Portillo also only met him briefly on trips to Syria.

British officials have made great efforts to gain access but believe public protests would be counter-productive. Last night Mr Spring said: ‘This man is fully entitled to consular access.’

Mr Portillo did not return calls, but has said he ‘did not know Mr Akkam well’. Mr Duncan did not want to comment until he had the full facts. The Foreign Office is pressing Syria daily to gain access to Mr Akkam.
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