Dubai ruler pardons Norwegian woman convicted after she reported rape

-- A Norwegian woman who
was sentenced to prison in Dubai after
reporting that she was raped has been given
a pardon and will be heading home soon, she
said Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Marte
Deborah Dalelv seemed relieved and happy
as she confirmed the news -- if still slightly
bewildered by the swift turn of events.
"They told me that I would be pardoned and
that they were going to give me my passport
back, so I got it immediately," she said.
Asked what happens next, Dalelv paused a
moment before replying: "I get to go home."
She added, "We want to make
it as soon as possible."
Dalelv has her passport in her
possession and filed the
paperwork for an exit visa
Monday afternoon. She hopes
to find out Tuesday when she
can leave the country.
A spokeswoman for Norway's
Foreign Ministry, Ragnhild
Imerslund, said Dubai ruler
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid
Al Maktoum had said Dalelv
was free to travel where she
wants and can remain in Dubai
if she chooses.
The sheikh, who is vice
president of the United Arab Emirates, also
said the 24-year-old had not been and would
not be deported, Imerslund said. She is
expected to travel in a day or two, the
spokeswoman said.
Dalelv, a Qatar-based interior designer, was
on a work trip to Dubai when she reported to
police that she had been raped by a
colleague at the hotel where she was
staying.
She was herself then detained and charged
with having unlawful sex, making a false
statement and illegal consumption of alcohol.
A court last week sentenced her to 16
months in prison, prompting outrage in
Norway.
Dalelv's lawyer, Mahmoud Azab Abu Gareda,
said the sheikh's pardon is "effectively a
royal decree," which wipes the slate clean,
leaving no record of her conviction.
This means the alleged perpetrator, who was
charged with public intoxication and having
sex outside of marriage, also walks free, he
said.
Dalelv has dropped her case against him, so
it will not be pursued further, he said.
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'Fantastic feeling'
Dalelv said she had not known what to
expect when she went into a meeting
Monday with the Dubai attorney general, her
lawyers and Norway's ambassador to the
United Arab Emirates, Ase Elin Bjerke.
"I just went in with an open mind, and they
said, 'Well, we are pardoning you.' This is
such a good day," Dalelv said.
"Now I get my exit visa, and then I am going
home to see my mum!"
Dalelv gave insight into the pressure she has
been under, saying that she knew what had
happened to her but that she had started to
believe she was "guilty emotionally."
She said it was a "fantastic feeling" to have
her freedom back and be able to leave Dubai,
but at the same time she would miss the
friends she has made.
Bjerke, Norway's envoy, said that her country
had been working on Dalelv's behalf for
several months and that she was very
grateful for the decision to issue a pardon.
Bjerke said the case had resonated on social
media in Norway and elsewhere.
"I think people can see themselves in Marte,"
she said. "She has done what a lot of people
would do when they come and visit Dubai.
You are out with your friends ,and things roll
on that you are not in control of. She is
happy now, and we are happy with her, and
she can return free to Norway."
Norway has a "very good" relationship with
the United Arab Emirates, Bjerke said, adding
that she credited the openness between the
two nations for the outcome of this case.
Islamic laws, traditions
Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen
Barth Eide also welcomed news of Dalelv's
pardon.
"Marte is released! Thanks to everyone who
signed up to help #ReleaseMarte," his
Twitter feed said.
Imerslund said "very constructive" dialogue
between the foreign ministers of Norway and
the UAE, along with international pressure
and interest, led to this outcome in Dalelv's
case.
On Friday, Eide had called his UAE
counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al
Nahyan, to protest Dalelv's conviction as
"contrary to fundamental human rights," a
weekend statement from the Norwegian
ministry said.
While Dubai has a reputation as a
cosmopolitan city that boasts Western
influences, where visitors can drink at bars
and restaurants and unmarried couples can
share hotel rooms, the country adheres to
Islamic laws and traditions.
Having sex outside of marriage and public
consumption of alcohol are both violations of
the law in the United Arab Emirates.
Women's rights violations not just a
developing nation issue
Fired from her job
Dalelv no longer has a job with the company
that sent her on the work assignment to
Dubai.
She said that a month after the rape, while
forced to stay in Dubai as the case wound
through the legal system, she was fired by
her employer, Al Mana Interiors.
A representative of Al Mana Interiors, who
declined to be publicly identified, said
Saturday that Dalelv and the Sudanese man
she accused -- who is married with three
children -- were both terminated by Al Mana
Interiors for "drinking alcohol at a staff
conference that resulted in trouble with the
police."
A statement released later the same day by
Al Mana Interiors spokesman Hani El Korek
said that the company was sympathetic
toward Dalelv "during this very difficult
situation" and that her dismissal was not
because of the rape claim.
The statement said that company
representatives were by her side through the
initial investigation, spending "days at both
the police station and the prosecutor's office
to help win her release."
"Only when Ms. Dalelv declined to have
positive and constructive discussions about
her employment status, and ceased
communication with her employer, was the
company forced to end our relationship with
her," the statement said.
"The decision had nothing to do with the
rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms.
Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to
contact the company to discuss her
employment status."
The company is owned by Qatari billionaire
Wissam Al Mana, who made headlines this
year after it was revealed that he secretly
married singer Janet Jackson in 2012.
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Rights record criticized
The United Arab Emirates has been heavily
criticized by rights groups that say it
condones sexual violence against women.
Human Rights Watch has called its record
"shameful," saying it must change the way it
handles such cases.
In December 2012, a British woman reported
being raped by three men in Dubai. She was
found guilty of drinking alcohol without a
license and fined.
In January 2010, a British woman told
authorities she was raped by an employee at
a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public
intoxication and having sex outside of
marriage.
An Australian woman reported in 2008 that
she was drugged and gang-raped. She was
convicted of having sex outside marriage and
drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to
11 months in prison.