Karabus grateful to SA government
"I am extremely pleased and relieved that my case has finally come to an end and that the United Arab Emirates judicial process has found me not guilty," he said in a statement released on Friday. "The medical committee found that I’ve acted correctly in the treatment of my patient and absolved me of any wrongdoing." Karabus described his seven-month ordeal as "a long, difficult and trying journey".
On Thursday Karabus was found not guilty after being placed on trial in Abu Dhabi for manslaughter and falsifying the medical documents of a patient. His name was cleared by a medical review committee that the court ordered should be established to look at his case.
However, his difficult journey is not over yet, as negotiations are going on behind the scenes to try and get the frail medical specialist home as soon as possible. It is still unclear when he will be able to leave as there is apparently a 14 day period in which the court gives the prosecution a time to appeal. The prosecution has, however, indicated it will not appeal.
The family is extremely grateful for all the help received in trying to end their nightmare, but want to try to get him home as quickly as possible. Members of the medical fraternity around the world have joined in their condemnation of his detention, as have his former patients and their families.
"I would like to thank the South African government, the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the minister of international relations and cooperation for their continuous efforts to ensure a positive outcome. In particular I would like to thank Deputy Minister Marius Fransman for the personal interest he took in my case," said Karabus in his statement.
"I look forward to returning to South Africa and to spending quality time with my family and friends. I hope that all the required processes will be finalised as soon as possible and that I will be able to celebrate my birthday with my loved ones on April 1 in Cape Town."
Zest for life
The first words the 77-year medical specialist said to his son in South Africa after he called him to tell him the good news on Thursday was "Mikey, can you hear me? It's over, it's over."
Thirty-three year old Michael told the Mail & Guardian his father had sounded in good spirits on the phone and quipped that like the Pope Benedict, who also has a pacemaker, he should also now step down from work and rest.
As a young boy, Michael accompanied the devoted doctor on his rounds at the renowned Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, and said he was happy his father had not lost his zest for life during his ordeal.
"My father had not yet been brought to court, and by the time he rocked up this morning, they had already found him not guilty," said Michael shortly after hearing the news on Thursday. "He was tried in abstentia, and he was found not guilty in abstentia."
The family are concerned there should not be any further delays in getting the professor home, because his health is poor, and he has a pacemaker and has been suffering from angina.
"We are working very hard with the department of international relations and co-operation [Dirco] to see if we can't speed up this process," said Michael. "We want to try to waive the appeal period."
Michael said his father had dedicated his whole life to saving the lives of others, and the family had spent the past seven months trying to bringing him home.
'Over the moon'
"I am completely over the moon," he said. "We really are so grateful for all the help from Dirco and from the deputy minister of international relations and co-operation Marius Fransman."
The retired medical specialist lives in Cape Town and was arrested on August 18 last year, while in transit in Dubai to South Africa, after attending his son Matthew's wedding in Canada.
His arrest, the family later found out, had to do with a short locum he did just under a decade ago at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi. During this time, Karabus had treated a three-year-old leukaemia patient who died of myelocytic leukaemia, which is known to have a poor prognosis. Karabus had not been warned by the local authorities or the company that hired him to do a locum in Abu Dhabi that he was facing charges in the United Arab Emirates.
Nor was he informed that he had also been tried in absentia in 2003, and been found guilty of fraud and manslaughter, following the death of his young patient. For the past five months Karabus has been living with former Pretoria doctor Elwin Buchel, and for two months before that he was held in jail. His appearances in court were made at that stage in leg-irons, something which Michael had to witness on a visit to offer his father support.
Michael said he can't wait for his father to meet his eight-week-old baby, Gabriel Joseph Karabus, who was born in a time of huge tension for the family.
"It's been a full-time job for my sister Sarah. She has petitioned every organisation. She has spoken to the United Nations, to the Canadian government, to the South African government, and she has been a real warrior," said Michael. "We all pulled together and we really want to thank the South African government, who has been central to ensuring my father's freedom behind the scenes."
The news could not have come at a better time, as the spirits of the family were running low. Sarah Karabus, a popular paediatrician in Cape Town, recently told the Mail & Guardian the family was feeling "drained" as the original medical file that would show his records of his treatment of the child was still missing.
It was also only on the fifth attempt by his lawyers to get him released that the frail Karabus was finally granted bail last year.
At his final bail hearing the court ordered that the original medical file relating to the case must be produced by the hospital, and ordered that a specialist medical panel must be appointed to review it.