ABU DHABI // A second court has cleared Dr Cyril Karabus of manslaughter, but the South African professor must remain in the country while prosecutors decide whether to launch a final appeal.
The Appeals Court issued its verdict yesterday, five days earlier than scheduled, with the judge explaining this was done at the request of the professor’s legal team, who argued the trial was taking too long and that the doctor needed to travel back to South Africa as soon as possible.
But the paediatric oncologist, 78, faces a further wait of up to 30 days while prosecutors decide whether they will take the case to the Cassation Court. Should they decide to drop the case before the 30-day period is up, he will be then be free to leave the country.
The doctor said he was in two minds about the development, having initially believed he was free to leave the country, before learning from The National’s website that the ruling could still be appealed.
“I do not know if the acquittal is good news,” he said. “I was really happy when my lawyer phoned me this morning, thinking it is was all over. Then I read your report saying there could still be an appeal.”
He said he had been in contact with his travel agent to arrange a flight home, and was planning to leave on a flight on Saturday. But after reading the article he called his lawyer, who confirmed he needed to wait for the prosecutors’ decision.
“I’m very unhappy now because there is another month yet.”
He said his lawyer was hopeful prosecutors would drop the case, but he was not so confident.
The Appeals Court is now the second court to clear the South African professor of the manslaughter of three-year-old Yemeni leukaemia sufferer Sarah Adel.
In March the Criminal Court found him not guilty of the charge after a report by a medical committee ruled he was not negligent over the death, but prosecutors chose to appeal against the verdict. They said in their appeal that the girl’s life support system was turned off before she could be considered brain-dead under international guidelines.
But Dr Karabus’s defence lawyer, Khalfan Al Kaabi, argued that another surgeon was responsible for the decision to remove the equipment sustaining the child’s life.
Following yesterday’s verdict, Dr Karabus explained that the child had a drip and a tube into her brain, which he was not responsible for.
“On the 18th of December a neurosurgeon decided she was not going anywhere and decided to pull the tube out of her brain.”
He added that had the medical committee spoken to him from the beginning of the trial, “the case could have been over in five minutes”.
“The medical committee called me once to meet me but cancelled three hours later,” he said.
Prosecutors said yesterday they had not decided whether to take the case to the Cassation Court, saying they would study the details of the verdict before deciding whether to do so. A draft of the verdict is yet to be printed.
A year after the girl’s death at Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in 2002 – after the expatriate doctor had left the country – he was found guilty in absentia of manslaughter. Prosecutors claimed he had failed to give the girl a vital blood transfusion, and later covered up his mistake by forging a medical report.
He was arrested in August last year when he landed at Dubai International Airport in transit to South Africa from his son’s wedding in Canada and a retrial was ordered.