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Cape Town - The South African government has written a strongly worded letter to its UAE counterpart in a move to persuade them to release detained Cape Town professor Cyril Karabus, says Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Marius Fransman.
“At this point, we feel that it will be in the best interest of all involved to release Karabus, considering his age and deterioration of health. This issue has now reached a diplomatic protection phase,” said Fransman.
He was speaking at a press briefing on Thursday at the Taj Hotel; a little over two hours after a visit to the Karabus family home in Kenilworth.
Fransman said the government had “taken a firm approach” towards the UAE authorities in the form of a demarche – a “strong line of diplomatic action a country can take to convey their concerns on a given subject from one government to another”.
An emeritus professor at the 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 to South Africa from his son’s wedding in Toronto, Canada. His fate in the Abu Dhabi court is still unclear, after 15 postponements.
Fransman said the department had rendered “extensive” consular assistance to Karabus and his family.
The letter, written by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, requested that UAE authorities deal with Karabus’s case in an “expeditious and fair manner as it is placing strain on the existing good relations between the two countries in the field of medical co-operation”.
Fransman said it was not possible for South Africa to interfere with the judicial process in another sovereign county, but that they had called on UAE authorities to “expedite the matter and to bring it to finalisation as quickly as possible”.
Karabus’s lawyer, Michael Bagraim said they were “excited” that the government was finally intervening in Karabus’s case. “It’s been an emotional four months, hopefully this helps in bringing Karabus home,” he said.
A specialist paediatric oncologist, Karabus, who has a pacemaker, was tried and convicted in absentia in the UAE in 2002, after he worked as a locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi in 2000.
Prosecutors have argued that he failed to give a blood transfusion to a three-year-old Yemeni cancer patient during an operation at the Sheikh Medical Centre.
She later died of myeloid leukaemia.
Karabus and his legal team in Abu Dhabi continue to wait for news from the attorney general.
He is yet to report to the judge whether they have managed to locate the missing original medical records required to prosecute Karabus.
Meanwhile Karabus’s ex-patients and their families will hold a “get-together” on Monday afternoon to rally support for his release and to also celebrate the lives Karabus has changed over the years, said organiser and Karabus's ex-patient, Táryn Harkness.
Harkness, 38, was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphona at age three.
“Under Karabus’s guidance, his team oversaw my treatment, my progress and ultimately my recovery. His treatment saved my life. Even long after I was ‘in remission’ Karabus oversaw my progress in his quiet, compassionate way,” she said about her experience at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Harkness was given the all clear at age 20.
“As a mom now, I can’t begin to imagine how a parent can endure a disease that threatens to take her child, but I know that doctors like him are few and far between, and that his gentle strength and unending encouragement helped my recovery as much as any medical treatment his team administered,” said Harkness.
The event will be held at Bagraims Attorneys, 5 De Lorentz Street, Gardens at 5:30pm.