September 2012 Former Red Cross paediatrician Professor Cyril Karabus, charged, tried and sentenced in abstentia in Dubai. Arrested there on arrival at the airport now.

Cape Town - A Cape Town professor is being detained at the Abu Dhabi International Airport and could face charges of manslaughter.

Professor Cyril Karabus, 78, of Claremont, was arrested while in transit in Dubai to South Africa on August 18. He was returning home after attending his son’s wedding in Canada.

His lawyer, Michael Bagraim, described Karabus as an “internationally well-respected medical figure”. He said the Karabus family were in “shock and highly traumatised” by the arrest. On Thursday his wife and son were on their way to Abu Dhabi.

“It has been a nightmare for his family. His health is fragile and he depends on a pacemaker to regulate his heart… the situation is not good for him,” he said.

Karabus specialises in paediatrics and medical oncology. He is a former professor of paediatrics at UCT and head of the oncology and haematology unit at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

Hospital spokeswoman Lauren O’Connor-May said staff were aware he had been taken into custody but she could not comment further.

Twelve years ago Karabus worked as a locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and operated on a seven-year-old cancer patient who later died of leukaemia.

In his absence he was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. Bagraim said no attempt was made to contact Karabus and he was never given an opportunity to defend himself in court. An effort to get Karabus’s initial conviction overturned had succeeded, but on October 3 he would stand a new trial for the same charges.

“I have consulted experts around the world and they are all confident he stands a good chance. He has spent almost his whole life saving young lives… there was nothing he could have done for her,” he said.

Bagraim believes that the girl’s father laid charges out of anger. “He was looking for someone to blame for her death and he chose Karabus, because he was there for her last moments.”

Bagraim described Karabus as a “very cheerful fellow who is humble despite his achievements”.

He was getting all his medication at the airport. “He is hanging in there...With the heat reaching 45° in Abu Dhabi the strain on his health is enormous.”

A Facebook page named Prof Cyril Karabus has been opened to rally support for a petition on

When contacted by the Cape Argus, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Nelson Kgwete referred all queries concerning the case to Bagraim.

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Cape Argus