Long battle ahead for SA couple in UAE jail - lawyer

Dubai – It is not easy to get family member or friends out of jail in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Netwerk24 reports. 

A South African man and his fiancée have been detained for more than a month in Abu Dhabi because she is pregnant and they are not married.

"No South African lawyer is going to be able to fight the case on that side for you. You have to make use of local law firms, which will cost you a lot of money," lawyer Michael Bagraim said.

He struggled for 10 months to get South African doctor, Professor Cyril Karabus, out of prison in the UAE after he was detained there in August 2012.

"You have to place immense pressure on them to be helpful. At the end, I had to have a meeting with the deputy minister of the department in an effort to help Karabus," Bagraim said.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said there was nothing they could do for Emlyn Culverwell, 29, and his fiancée Iryna Nohai, 27, originally from the Ukraine. 

They were arrested on January 29 on charges of having sex before marriage - a crime in the UAE.

Karabus said they should first get a local lawyer.

"Then they should approach international human rights organisations such as Red Cross and Red Crescent. They will be able to assist the pregnant woman and make sure she gets the necessary medical assistance."

'Get everyone influential on board'

The department should be approached and asked to send a démarche to the UAE – a demand from one government to another that the couple be released.

"Remember, enormous pressure on the department of international relations. It took me two months to get them to send the letter. "

He contacted ministers of justice around the world to gain their support.

"Get everyone that is influential on board. Contact all international organisations that might be able help.

"Make sure the story is published everywhere - radio stations, TV channels, magazines and newspapers around the world."

He had turned to the United Nations and met activists for peace to get help.

He said he was not aware of many South Africans being arrested in the UAE.

"It happens occasionally, but it is usually for trivialities. A woman has, for example, been arrested because she had her prescribed pills with her." 

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