Prominent South African Doctor Denied Bail in UAE

Cyril Karabus, an elderly doctor arrested in Dubai in August on manslaughter charges stemming from a 10-year-old case, was denied bail after the hearing was adjourned; he is set to apply again on Thursday.

JOHANNESBURG – The fourth bid by Cyril Karabus, 77, a prominent South African doctor from Cape Town, to be let out of prison on bail in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was denied on Wednesday.

Karabus, of Claremont in Cape Town, was hoping to get bail but the hearing was adjourned because the prosecutor could not find a crucial docket. Karabus will have to apply for bail again next Thursday. He was arrested on August 18 on charges of manslaughter and falsifying medical documents.

Cyril Karabus, 78, was arrested six weeks ago in Dubai while in transit on his way home from his son's wedding in Canada.

Karabus was arrested on charges relating to the 2002 death of a young girl suffering from leukemia. According to a statement issued by the University of Cape Town, where Karabus was a professor, he treated the 3-year-old while working as a locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi. She died soon after.

Karabus was not told he had been tried and convicted for her death in absentia. His sentence included three and a half years imprisonment and a fine amounting to about one million rands (approximately US$118,600).

Karabus, who has a pacemaker and is described as "frail," was arrested without initially being given a reason. His wife, Jenifer, said the incident was "extremely traumatic."

"All I could give him was a toothbrush," she said.

Karabus's daughter, Sarah, a pediatrician in Cape Town, was travelling with her parents at the time.

"They stopped my father when he went through passport control," she said. "At first we thought it was a joke, because we didn't believe it. They only gave us five minutes to say goodbye to him."

Karabus is being held in the hospital wing of the Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi.

Karabus is a former professor of pediatrics at UCT and headed the oncology and
hematology unit at Cape Town's Red Cross Children's Hospital, one of the continent's most renowned hospitals.  

On Monday, Michael Karabus said his father would appear on Wednesday to apply for bail for a fourth time. Karabus' Abu Dhabi-based lawyers would also try to gain access to the girl's full medical file.

On Tuesday, Karabus' local lawyer, Michael Bagraim, addressed the two apparent charges, one for manslaughter and one for falsifying documents.

"She was apparently extremely ill and was indeed unfortunately going to die anyway," said Bagraim of the patient. "Prof. Karabus hasn't discovered the cure for cancer."

The alleged document is said to instruct the patient to receive platelets, which in this sort of situation are apparently contraindicated, said Bagraim. The document itself, however, has yet to be presented.

"Neither the court nor the state seems to have the document in question," said Bagraim. "So it's all very mystifying. In the meantime, my client is frail and elderly and sitting in jail in Abu Dhabi."

The younger Karabus, who visited his father in the UAE last month, said his father was concerned about his reputation.

"He dedicated his life to the public health service in this country," Michael Karabus told the Cape Argus newspaper in Cape Town of his father. "But it's more than likely this is what he'll be remembered for."

Last week, the university released a statement in support of Karabus. By October 2, an online petition of support had garnered over 9,000 signatures.

A family member said letters and emails expressing outrage over the charges and support for Karabus' "integrity and reputation" were sent to a number of national and global medical organizations.

South Africas Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on Tuesday said they were rendering consular services to Karabus and his family.

Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela said the family had made an appeal to the department to make representations on their behalf to the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Considering the age of the man and his ill health and the fact that he was sentenced in absentia we are assisting them and have made an appeal to the UAE government to consider this, he said.

An open letter from the Treatment Action Campaign, a well-known South African activist organization, to International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, encouraged the South African government to negotiate a pardon, or allow bail while a retrial takes place.

"We respect the laws of foreign countries when they are just, even if they are vastly different from our own laws," the letter stated. "However, by no modern principle of jurisprudence is it acceptable to try a foreign citizen in absentia without informing him or attempting to extradite him."

Cyril Karabus