SA ‘committed’ to UAE relations despite Karabus ordeal

2013-05-17 16:29

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Government respects the judiciary of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) despite Prof Cyril Karabus’s ordeal, Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman has said.

“I must reiterate here a point we have made on previous occasions, that the South African government respects the independence of the judiciary and its processes in the UAE ... We are committed to maintaining our cordial diplomatic and trade relations with the UAE.”

He addressed media at Cape Town International Airport, where Karabus landed before noon to overwhelming support from friends, family and the public.

Fransman thanked Karabus’ family for being patient and the media for their ongoing support in sharing his plight. He said government had played its part in making sure the legal matter was expedited.

“The South African government persistently and successfully called on the government of the UAE to expedite the matter and to bring it to finality. It took all the necessary steps to ensure that Prof Karabus receives a fair and just trial and that such efforts take place at a high level.”

The paediatric oncologist had been detained in the UAE since August 18 2012, after being sentenced in absentia for the death of a Yemeni girl he treated for leukaemia in 2002.

He was arrested in Dubai while in transit to South Africa from Toronto, Canada, where he had attended his son’s wedding.

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

There were also administrative delays in getting his passport from UAE authorities, and problems with his visa.

An exhausted but relieved Karabus thanked South Africa today for its support, and said this was critical for his release.

“I really must thank everybody. Your support has just been fantastic.”

Karabus said the ordeal had affected him, but not too much.

“I’m a fairly stable, or unfeeling, if you like, person, so it probably had more impact on my wife and kids than on me,” he said.

“It’s been nine months of my life: almost the time for the gestation of a baby,” he joked.

He said there had been ups and downs in that time, but that he had managed to cope.

“The Emirates newspapers ... listed me as a fugitive, saying I had left before my contract finished, and you try to correct that, but you can’t.”

He kept up to date with the case by accessing local news websites online and enjoyed support from an expatriate population in the UAE sympathetic to his situation.

Businessman Iqbal Surve, who studied under Karabus as a doctor, said he felt like he was a part of Karabus’ family after speaking to him and other members almost every day.

“Whatever I did (to support him) was surely a privilege ... thank you to those members of the (UAE) royal family who supported this process.”

Surve said Karabus should be held in the highest regard, because he had given his life to the public sector.

“He’s the kind of South African we want, the kind of South African who puts his patients, his community first.”

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