Professor Cyril Karabus, who arrived at Cape Town International Airport on Friday following eight months' detention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on charges of which he was finally acquitted, thanked South Africa for its support during his ordeal.
"I really must thank everybody. Your support has just been fantastic," the 78-year-old, a specialist paediatric oncologist who is an emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town, told the large crowd gathered to welcome him.
Karabus had been in detention in Abu Dhabi since August 2012, when he was arrested while in transit.
He had been found guilty, in absentia, in 2003, on charges of manslaughter and fraud following the death of a three-year-old Yemeni girl he had treated for leukaemia while doing locum work in Abu Dhabi in 2002.
Karabus was unaware of the charges and the sentence until his arrest in 2012.
After his case was postponed 13 times due to the inability of the prosecution to present documentary evidence, Karabus was finally acquitted by a United Arab Emirates court in March, based on the findings of a medical review committee which absolved him from all blame in the case.
This followed a visit to the UAE by Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman, who met with UAE Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Al Hamed to discuss the case.
The South Africa government was involved from the beginning of Karabus' ordeal, taking several actions to bring his case to a resolution. The government's concerns centred on Karabus' right to a fair and speedy trial, as well as his health and age.
International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane wrote a letter to her UAE counterpart requesting that the case be resolved fairly and quickly, while the government twice summoned the UAE ambassador to South Africa to express its concerns over the issue.
In January, Fransman paid a visit to Karabus's family in Cape Town to brief them on the government's efforts to assist the professor.
Addressing the media at Cape Town International on Friday, Fransman said: "We are elated to have Prof Karabus back in Cape Town, South Africa, where his absence for almost eight months was felt mostly so by his close family as well as the broader family, i.e. the South African nation."
Fransman thanked Karabus and his family for their "full cooperation, understanding and patience", and the legal team that worked with Karabus "for ensuring that justice is done".
He also acknowledged the role played by civil society in highlighting Karabus' plight. "The medical fraternity, the media, business organisations and individuals all had a hand in agitating for the freedom that Prof Karabus has come home to enjoy."
Fransman stressed that South Africa "respects the independence of the judiciary and its processes in the UAE, and that we are committed to maintaining our cordial diplomatic and trade relations with the UAE".