A Norwegian woman in Dubai, initially sentenced to 16 months in prison after telling local authorities she had been raped by a co-worker, has been pardoned following extensive international pressure and outrage at the judgment.
- (Photo: Reuters/ Jumana El Heloueh)
Marte Deborah Dalelv, a 24-year-old native of Norway, made her sentencing public last week in a series of interviews, resulting in a firestorm in Norway and other countries, demanding Dalelv be released.
Following international pressure, as well as diplomatic efforts by Norway, Dalelv confirmed on Sunday that Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had pardoned her charges and that she was free to travel from Dubai, or stay if she wished, and she was not in danger of deportation.
"They told me that I would be pardoned and that they were going to give me my passport back [...] so I got it immediately," Dalelv told reporters when she confirmed the pardon on Sunday, adding that she hopes to return to Norway "as soon as possible."
"I am very, very happy," Dalelv added, saying "I am overjoyed."
In March, Dalelv, who works for an interior design firm in Qatar, filed a police report claiming a coworker had raped her at a hotel while she was attending a business meeting in Dubai.
According to CNN, Dalelv was then charged with having unlawful sex, making a false statement to police and participating in the illegal consumption of alcohol.
Last week, a Dubai court sentenced Dalelv to 16 months in jail for her alleged offenses, prompting Dalelv to expose her story internationally.
According to the Associated Press, Dalelv's situation reflects Dubai's struggle to maintain its image as a Western-friendly, cosmopolitan hub while continuing to enforce its conservative Islamic-based legal codes.
In a previous interview with the Associated Press, Dalelv said she decided to hold interviews regarding her sentencing to spread the word.
"I have to spread the word. [...] After my sentence we thought, 'How can it get worse?'" Dalelv told the Associated Press on Friday.
Following the announcement of her pardoning, Norway's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister took to Twitter to thank both Norwegian diplomatic efforts and international pressure as the reasons for Dalelv's release.
"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 serve as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries," Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
However, the good news has been soured somewhat after it was also revealed that although Dalelv has been fully pardoned, leaving no record of her arrest, the alleged rapist, who was originally sentenced to a 13-month prison stay, will also be pardoned.
Critics note that previous punishments relating to sexual abuse claims have been at odds with the way Dubai promotes itself as a Western-friendly cosmopolitan hub.
Dubai, which is a part of the United Arab Emeriates, adheres to strict Islamic law which declares out-of-wedlock sex and alcohol consumption to be illegal.
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