UAE trying to save face - Karabus lawyer

2013-05-07 18:06
(File: Foto24)

(File: Foto24)

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Cape Town - The protracted ordeal of South African doctor Cyril Karabus was largely due to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) trying to "save face", his lawyer Michael Bagraim said on Tuesday.

"The reality of the situation is that it was very convenient. Find him guilty, don't offer him a locum here again, he won't come back, we'll never see him, the hospital will pay money, let's close the file," he said.

When Karabus eventually found out he had been charged with manslaughter, he chose to maintain his innocence instead of pleading guilty and getting out of the country.

"It's been an embarrassment ever since, having him there. That's what it's all about, face-saving."

Bagraim was speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch in Observatory.

The 78-year-old paediatric oncologist has been detained in the UAE since 18 August last year, after being sentenced in absentia for the death of a Yemeni girl he treated for leukaemia in 2002.

He was acquitted on March 21 and won an appeal, but his return to South Africa was delayed because he was on the UAE's database as a fugitive from justice.

His bail money of R250 000 was returned to him on Monday, but he still had to wait for his passport from Abu Dhabi prison authorities.

Bagraim revealed that Karabus had not actually been the doctor on duty when the girl died.

They had decided not to track down the neurologist who was on duty at the time for fear of his life, and because "we did not want to point fingers".

Bagraim said the UAE was a tricky region when it came to criminal matters and justice.

"You've got to remember that we're dealing with a country, if you can call it that, which is incredibly difficult and if you bad-mouth them in anyway, it could backfire on you."

Bagraim said he and Karabus's wife only decided to go public with the professor's plight when it seemed like there were no options left.

The situation was such that the hospital had already paid "blood money" for the girl's death, a popular cultural token, and her family had "disappeared into the woodworks".

"This is not a legal exercise. It's fortunately or unfortunately been a political exercise," Bagraim said.

He was glad Karabus had never caved in to pleading guilty or to paying blood money.

"He's proved it absolutely correct, because he can come back to this country, hopefully next week, and hold his head up high, that he's done what he had to do and proved himself innocent right throughout this exercise."

The lawyer had filled 19 files of papers and letters from people supporting Karabus's cause, offering to pay for expenses, and sharing similar stories of working in foreign countries.

Bagraim thanked the public, press, and those with influence who had assisted in the professor's plight.

Read more on:    cyril karabus  |  uae

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