UAE continues to hold South African professor Karabus

GroundUp Staff
Professor Cyril Karabus continues to be trapped in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with his passport confiscated, while he is tried on an implausible manslaughter charge.

After five months in the UAE, two of them spent in prison before he was released on bail, 77 year old Karabus' trial has been postponed for the 16th time.

A UAE newspaper, The National, reports:

The case of the South African doctor accused of the manslaughter of a three-year-old girl more than 10 years ago returned to court today as a medical committee finally issued a response. For months the Criminal Court awaited the response of the specialised committee after Sheikh Khalifa Medical City continually failed to provide the case file of the Yemeni girl who Cyril Karabus, 77, is accused of failing to give a blood transfusion to in 2002. The paediatric oncologist, who denies the charge, has been on bail with his passport confiscated since he was arrested at Dubai airport while travelling with his family. After the Criminal Court all but gave up on witnessing any proceedings earlier this month, it removed the case from the court's roll and bounced it back to prosecutors, who also failed to produce the case file essential for the professor's defence, to either present the missing evidence or dismiss the case. The medical committee's letter to court said it has referred the case to a branch committee, which is currently looking into matters. The case was adjourned until February 27 for the branch committee's report.

According to Karabus' attorney in South Africa, copies of medical documents exonerating him have actually been found, but the court has been demanding the originals. His attorney has explained to us that in UAE the onus is on the accused to prove innocence, in contrast to most other justice systems that place the burden upon the state to prove guilt.

Dr Mark Furman, a paediatrician in London's Great Ormond Street Hospital wrote a heartfelt defence of Professor Karabus yesterday:

Months of unconscionable delay in a matter that screams 'injustice' and the so-called 'specialized medical committee' finally decides... to send the matter to a sub-committee and report back in a month. It's simply unbelievable.

It is also astonishing that Prof. Karabus' plight continues in the way that it has. To say it's a disgrace to the lawyers, justice officials and medical establishment of the United Arab Emirates is to put things far too mildly. But expressing the outrage that is appropriate, given the facts, may cause harm to the innocent defendant and his family.

Last year, the Treatment Action Campaign wrote:

We call on people who share our abhorrence for the UAE's justice system to stop flying Emirates [UAE's airline] and to not visit the UAE.

Others, including Dr Furman have also cautioned against flying Emirates. Furman further wrote yesterday:

The Daily Maverick reported back in November that the Karabus family had asked Emirates if it would consider funding tickets for them to visit Karabus in Abu Dhabi as a goodwill gesture, but it declined. When the Daily Maverick approached Emirates Airline for comment, it was told: "This is a legal issue being dealt with by the relevant authorities and does not involve Emirates."

Karabus is a much respected doctor. He has spent most of his life working in the public health system, including facilities like Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town. Upon retirement he worked as a locum in UAE for a short period. It was during this time that the three-year old girl he was treating died of leukaemia. Without his knowledge he was tried in abstentia and found guilty of manslaughter. He was travelling back to South Africa via the UAE from a family visit in Canada when he was arrested last year. Although the original verdict was overturned, he is being retried.

Facebook and Twitter accounts to Free Karabus have been set up: https://www.facebook.com/FreeKarabus and @FreeKarabus.

There is also a Facebook page that warns of the dangers of flying to the UAE: https://www.facebook.com/uaeemiratesdangers