Cape Town - The wife of detained Cape Town professor Cyril Karabus, Jenifer, is yet to come to grips with her husband’s arrest, which has caused the family much anguish over the past five months.
“What is happening is heartbreaking. He has worked hard throughout his career. This was supposed to be a relaxing time for us to enjoy our retirement and spend time with our grandchildren,” said Jenifer.
After 15 court appearances, Karabus’s fate in the Abu Dhabi justice system is still unclear.
The buck stops with the attorney-general, who is yet to report to the judge whether they have managed to locate the missing original medical records required by the judge to prosecute Karabus.
For three consecutive days, Karabus and his legal team in Abu Dhabi have sat outside the court, waiting to hear from the attorney-general, said Karabus’s lawyer Michael Bagraim.
On Tuesday, they left with “no news” yet again.
“It’s a cat-and-mouse game. They are toying with us because they know we have no redress. They have trapped him. He may as well be in a cage,” said 63-year-old Jenifer. She was speaking from her Kenilworth home on Tuesday.
An emeritus professor at UCT, Karabus, 77, has been detained in Abu Dhabi on charges of manslaughter and falsifying documents since August 18 last year.
He was arrested while in transit in Dubai from his son’s wedding in Toronto, Canada, to South Africa.
“No one explained anything to us. There was a lot shouting. The police were trying to frighten us as much as possible. They took away his passport and left him with only his toothbrush,” said Jenifer, recalling Karabus’s arrest at the airport.
“I am still trying to make sense of it all. What is the point of this? What is their goal? And what do they want?”
A specialist paediatric oncologist, Karabus – who has a pacemaker – was tried and convicted in absentia in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, after he worked as a locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi in 2000.
Prosecutors argue that Karabus failed to give a blood transfusion to a three-year-old Yemeni cancer patient during an operation at the medical centre, causing her death.
She later died of myeloid leukaemia.
“Something is very fishy here. There was no need for them to wait 10 years to arrest him. They knew where he lived; he signed a contract with the hospital. If they wanted to find him they would have,” Jenifer said.
Karabus was sentenced to three years and six months in jail.
His sentence included the payment of about R230 000 “blood money” to the victim’s family.
Karabus is currently living with Dr Elwin Buchel, the former head of gastroenterology at the University of Pretoria.
Seeing her husband with shackles on his feet and hands, “shuffling” into court during his earlier appearances was “shocking” for Jenifer.
She explained that she met Karabus for the first time 40 years ago when he treated her four-year-old daughter from a previous marriage at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Her daughter also had myeloid leukaemia, the same disease as the Yemeni cancer patient.
Jenifer’s daughter died of the disease in 1973.
“I feel sorry for the parents. I know what they went through… I went through it myself, “ she said.
It’s a proven fact that on his own, Karabus has managed to reduce the death rate of certain types of leukaemia by 80 percent, said Jenifer
She said Karabus’ situation is beginning to take a toll on their five children.
“They worship their father,” she said.
His “humongous” legal fees are also putting a strain on the family.
“Money just disappears. He has no income there. He is currently living on a credit card that he uses for basic necessities,” Jenifer said.
The missing originals are Karabus’ notes, lab reports and details of the three-week period before he started treating the girl.
“His work is his hobby, he worked all the time. When he was not working, he enjoyed exercising in the pool and working in the garden,” Jenifer said.
“I miss cooking a meal for him. I have no reason to cook anymore. It’s not like he is on holiday… I don’t know when, or if, he is coming home.”
Jenifer said she was grateful for the support and donations coming in from all over the world.
Her friends and children are helping her cope with the ordeal, she said.
She is planning to travel to Abu Dhabi at the end of the week.
She explained that all court proceedings in Abu Dhabi are held in Arabic. Although they have an interpreter, their lawyers are not fluent in English.
“This whole thing is ridiculous. We can’t even get a straight answer from our own lawyers,” she said.
Karabus is turning 78 on April 1.