A Qatar-based interior designer from Norway was recently sentenced to prison after reporting she had been raped, has been given a pardon and will be heading home soon.
“They told me that I would be pardoned and that they were going to give me my passport back, so I got it immediately,” 24-year-old Marte Deborah Dalelv told reporters.
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 is vice president of the United Arab Emirates.
Dalelv was on a work trip to Dubai when she reported the attack to police, saying she’d 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. Her passport was confiscated and her money seized by police. A court last week sentenced her to 16 months in prison, prompting outrage in Norway.
Her alleged attacker received a 13-month sentence for extra-marital sex and alcohol consumption.
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.
Perceptions are that Dubai is a cosmopolitan city with Western influences, but in fact having sex outside of marriage and public consumption of alcohol are both violations of the Islamic laws in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates has been heavily criticized by human rights groups for 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.