|Dubai UAE, but not the glitzy airport and the luxury hotel scene [Image Source]|
A renowned and beloved medical specialist in paediatrics and oncology in his native South Africa, Dr Karabus visited the United Arab Emirates in 2002 after he formally retired, to work briefly as a locum at a government hospital in Abu Dhabi. He was back in the UAE on August 17, 2012 to make an overnight transit stopover at Dubai airport. As The Economist describes it,
At immigration the next morning however, Dr Karabus was separated from his family, arrested and marched off to prison to serve a sentence for manslaughter for which he was convicted in absentia in 2003.The background, as we wrote earlier, is that he had been called upon to treat a terminally ill three-year old girl who subsequently died of leukaemia. The child's father then apparently filed a legal case against the distinguished medico without his knowledge. The Economist takes it up from there:
Since his arrest, Dr Karabus has been hauled before the courts on four occasions and each time denied bail despite his original conviction being overturned on the basis that he was not told of the charges against him. A fifth bail application on October 12th proved more successful, with the court agreeing to release Dr Karabus to a friend’s address in Abu Dhabi for an AED100,000 ($27,000) surety. A court-appointed 12-man medical committee has now been tasked with examining Dr Karabus’s case and determining whether negligence played any part in the child’s death.The case of Dr Karabus, who is still stuck in the UAE up to and including today, is far from isolated.
As details of the trial have slowly emerged, the English-language press in the UAE has diverged on its reporting of the case. The Abu Dhabi government-owned daily, the National, boldly claimed on August 28th that Dr Karabus had been arrested “two years after he fled the country”, implying that he was a fugitive on the run. However, the paper could not be sure, it said, of whether or not Dr Karabus had returned to hand himself in. Meanwhile, the best-selling English-language daily from neighbouring Dubai, Gulf News, while tying itself up in knots over whether Dr Karabus’s patient was a boy or a girl, reported that the court had accepted the doctor’s claim that he had administered a blood transfusion to his patient. Were this to be proven, Dr Karabus would be a free man again, given that the main accusation is that he failed to administer such a transfusion, thereby causing the little girl’s death.
The Economist refers to what it terms "the perils of living and working in the country"; of the opacity of the judicial system; the perceived excesses of the law itself; the local laws that consider bankruptcy to be a criminal offence; the fact that dozens of foreigners are currently behind bars awaiting trial for having issued bounced cheques - just one of those will get you a three-year prison sentence.
This week's edition of The Economist refers to the nightmarish experiences of a second doctor, Eugen Adelsmayr, at the hands of the Dubai authorities. According to a South African media source [here], he was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2009 after being convicted of premeditated murder after a quadriplegic patient died under his care. Adelsmayer is now somehow back in Austria and has written a book about the ordeal [source]. He calls the legal process under which he was tried and convicted “a farce”. Under UAE law, he cannot appeal the conviction unless he returns to Dubai [AFP]. The chances he will do that willingly are probably not so great.
We noticed that Dr Adelsmayer wrote a personal letter to the web version of the Economist article two days ago. In it he writes:
"I am the Austrian doctor you mention in your article. I am afraid that there is no chance for Dr. Karabus to get a fair trial in an ignorant and corrupt system. In my case the judge rejected medical experts for my defense saying he himself had good enough knowledge of Intensive Care. Most likely Dr. Karabus judge will be an expert in pediatric oncology. Even the fact that my case was built on a forged report from Dubai Health Authority did not help. I had revealed patient killings covered by an illegal hospital policy which put the final nail in my coffin." [More]On the same page, another letter-writer describes his own bitter experiences of being framed by an employee, and notes that under UAE law,
"The witnesses were not allowed into court as Hindus they were not able to give evidence".The 78-year old Dr Karabus is due back in court on November 20th to fight for his freedom.
Meanwhile a further reminder to Australian travelers that none of this is supposed to bother them a bit. Qantas is abandoning Singapore as its regional European transit hub in favour of Dubai, and has assured its customers ["Qantas soothes Jewish concerns"] that its new partnership with the Dubai-based Emirates airline is
"right for Qantas and will provide the best travel options for passengers heading to Europe or the UK. But we also respect that some customers may prefer to transit through Asia, instead of through Dubai..."While Qantas is soothing one part of its customer base, do its Hindu customers know what the letter-writer above says about Dubai law and order?
Perhaps someone reading this might consider sending a gift subscription of the Economist magazine to Qantas management, or even just email them a link to our blog. Could it be that at Australia's truly great airline, one or another of the decision makers have their heads in the sand?