Dubai pardons Norwegian woman in rape claim dispute
Norwegian is only the latest in a string of cases in which women who have reported being sexually assaulted have ended up in prison
A Norwegian woman at the centre of a Dubai rape claim dispute said that officials have dropped her 16-month sentence for having sex outside marriage and she is free to leave the country.
"I am very, very happy," Marte Deborah Dalelv said.
The sentence against the 24-year-old Dalelv last week stirred widespread outrage in the West and highlighted the frequent clash between Dubai's Western-friendly image and its Islamic-based legal codes.
Dalelv claimed she was raped in March by a co-worker, but was charged with having sex outside marriage after going to the police. Her decision to go public about the sentence last week in a series of interviews appeared to put pressure on authorities in Dubai and tarnish the city's reputation as a cosmopolitan hub, including possible fallout on its high-profile bid for the 2020 World Expo.
"I have my passport back. I am pardoned," said Dalelv, who worked for an interior design firm in Qatar and was in Dubai for a business meeting when the alleged rape took place.
There was no immediate word from Dubai officials, including whether the pardon was linked to traditions of clemency during the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
It also was unclear whether authorities would keep the 13-month sentence against Dalelv's alleged attacker, identified as a 33-year-old Sudanese man who was charged with consuming alcohol and having sex outside marriage.
While liquor is widely available in Dubai hotels and restaurants, public intoxication can bring serious charges.
In Norway, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide posted a Twitter message: "Marte is released! Thanks to everyone who signed up to help."
According to the British-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights, Dalelv's is only the latest in a string of cases in which women who have reported being raped have ended up with jail sentences.
Among recent cases, a Briton who alleged she had been raped by three men was fined for drinking alcohol. An Emirati woman was sentenced to a year in prison after claiming to have been gang-raped. An Australian woman was sent to prison for 11 months after reporting a gang-rape to police, the centre said.
Barth Eide said that international media attention and Norway's diplomatic measures had helped Dalelv, who was free on appeal with her next court hearing that is scheduled for early September.
Norway also reminded the United Arab Emirates of obligations under UN accords to seriously investigate claims of violence against women.
"The United Arab Emirates and Dubai is a rapidly changing society. This decision won't only affect Marte Dalelv, who can travel home now if she wishes to, but also serves as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries," Barth Eide was quoted as saying.
Dalelv said she planned to leave the UAE soon, but "first I have to thank some very special people," including local groups that supported her.
Last week she said she fled to a hotel lobby and asked for the police to be called. The hotel staff asked if she was sure she wanted to involve the police, Dalelv said.
"Of course I want to call the police," she said. "That is the natural reaction where I am from."
She said she was held in custody for four days before being able to reach her stepfather in Norway.
Additional reporting by Reuters