|The head of the UAE began a visit to the UK today [Image Source]|
Cape Town doctor Cyril Karabus will again try on Wednesday to get his passport back from United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. The elderly pediatric oncologist is still stuck in the UAE after two Abu Dhabi courts found him not guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of a young cancer patient he treated more than a decade ago. For a second day in a row, Karabus has been unable to get his passport. His son, Michael Karabus, said it was now a waiting game. “There’s never been any doubt that this will all end, but there’s always been a doubt as to when that would be.” Michael said his father remains confident he will be home within the next few days. Karabus will return to an Abu Dhabi Court on Wednesday to try and get his ticket home. [SA Eyewitness News, today]This brief South African news report could - but did not - have said much more, such as that Karabus has been detained against his will in the United Arab Emirates since August 18, 2012 in the following circumstances:
- He had been convicted and sentenced in absentia during 2004 (and ordered to pay what the Sharia law system of the UAE unabashedly calls blood money, as well as serve time in prison) over the death of a terminally-ill child from Yemen whom he treated for leukaemia in 2002. He was a contract doctor at the time, working in a rich UAE hospital for a short period in order to supplement his meager SA government salary and pension.
- Did we say in absentia? He was in fact never told of either the charges or the 'conviction' until...
- Nine months ago, when he and his family were transiting through Dubai airport as passengers on Emirates. According to news reports, the airline has been strikingly unhelpful since the start of the Karabus nightmare.
- His 'trial' in a UAE court was adjourned more than twenty times, and as far as we can tell from reports, never really happened in the conventional sense. Among numerous problems, the prosecution lacked, or was unwilling to produce, key evidentiary documents right up until the end.
- From a criminal law standpoint, the key issues were medical and technical and far beyond the competence of the judge/s.
- So to address that aspect, the Abu Dhabi court in charge of hearing the matter eventually appointed a committee of doctors. That committee appointed a sub-committee and they took many weeks, and several missed hearing dates, before deciding that Karabus had no culpability.
- The court therefore acquitted Prof. Karabus of all charges on March 21, 2013.
- The sordid matter ought to have ended there and the man allowed to finally go home. But the authorities in that thoroughly non-democratic corner of the world continued to hold onto his passport and instructed the people at the airport to refuse him the right to depart.
- Then the prosecution appealed against the acquittal.
- On what grounds? If there were any (in our uninformed view there were none), they have never been given any publicity anywhere, and the lawyers representing poor Prof. Karabus never received them. Since the conviction in absentia was erased because of a finding of fact, it's rather difficult to see what possible grounds for appeal there might be.
- That appeal was due to be heard, and then not heard, and then terminated on April 24, 2013 with a surprising announcement (five days ahead of the scheduled date) that the prosecution's appeal was dismissed, the charges were unproven, the conviction was overturned and the accused was free - technically.
Meanwhile those for whom the plight of a retired professional whose lifelong career was devoted to saving the lives of ill children is of little to no importance, might be interested to know that in far-away London, there was a major outbreak of pomp and circumstance yesterday. Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the unelected President of the United Arab Emirates and unelected emir of Abu Dhabi arrived for a two day official visit to the UK. His entourage includes the unelected Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the unelected Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Presidential Affairs; the unelected Sheikh Hamad bin Zayed, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court; and the unelected Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Co-operation.
We are unable to find a single mention of Prof. Karabus' ongoing pursuit of his passport and his freedom in any of the Emirate newspapers today. On the other hand, a major British paper covers a little-reported aspect of His Highness' state visit to the British capital in an article entitled "Why is Britain rolling out the red carpet for the UAE's Sheikh Khalifa?". An excerpt:
"A lot of the British public may already find it hard to stomach seeing the royal treatment given to the undemocratic leader of a country where the police torture prisoners and trials are a “mockery of justice”. That we are doing so even when it is our fellow Brits on the receiving end of the electric baton will be seen as an act which abandons not only our principles, but also our responsibilities to our own citizens. If anything positive is to come out of what is shaping up to be one of the more sordid state visits of recent years, torture and fair trial issues – and in particular the cases of the three British tourists – must be at the centre of every discussion at every level between Britain and the UAE" [The Statesman, April 27, 2013]As we wrote in the introduction, more questions than answers.