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Concern over fairness as doctor battles UAE manslaughter charges

By Jonathan Ames

05 October 2012 at 10:25 BST

A 77-year-old South African doctor is to appear in an Abu Dhabi court next week to discover his fate in a manslaughter trial that western observers say illustrates on-going concerns over Gulf region justice systems.

Abu Dhabi: South African doctor in court

Cyril Karabus – a cancer and blood disorder specialist who has worked at several globally renowned hospitals – was arrested in August as he spent 10 hours in transit in Dubai between Canada and South Africa, having attended his son’s wedding. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates allege that his failure 10 years ago to give a blood transfusion to a three-year-old patient ultimately resulted in the girl’s death.
He was initially convicted in absentia of murder, but his lawyers have recently had that finding overruled. However, he now faces manslaughter charges and has been refused bail.

Decade-old conviction

Dr Karabus denies the allegations and maintains that the first he heard of the charges and the decade-old initial conviction was when police hauled him from an airline queue at Dubai airport several weeks ago as he attempted to board a flight to South Africa.
According to a report yesterday in South African newspaper Globe and Mail, neither Dr Karabus nor Toronto-based InterHealth – the company that employed him during his stint at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalifa Medical City – was aware that an Emirati court had sentenced him to three and a half years in prison.
The report quoted the Canadian company as saying: ‘At no time was ICL informed of any complaint in relation to Dr Karabus’s performance of his clinical duties; no complaint was made against either ICL or [the hospital] and no claim was made under ICL’s medical malpractice policy.’


The Guardian newspaper in London cited Dr Karabus’s Cape Town-based lawyer, Michael Bagraim, as expressing concern over his client’s health. ‘My reports from people who were in the court were that the man appears to be broken. He was hunched. He was shackled. He appears to have his spirit broken ... Yet the man has not done anything wrong.’
According to a report in the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper, Dr Krabus’s local lawyer  Khalfan Al Kaabi, maintained that documents relied on by the prosecution had been tampered with or were incomplete.
There has been mounting concern among the international legal profession and human rights campaigners over the transparency and fairness of the UAE justice system and those throughout the Gulf region. At the beginning of last month, a US businessman fighting corruption charges in Dubai was reported to have been moved to a secret location outside the emirate’s formal prison system.
According the Associated Press, his local lawyer, James Jatras, maintained the UAE authorities refused to provide details of his client’s health or where he was being held.


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