Friday 15 December 2017

Dubai drops jail sentence for woman in rape claim

Marte Deborah Dalelv: claimed work colleague had raped her
Marte Deborah Dalelv: claimed work colleague had raped her

Brian Murphy Dubai

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 yesterday. "I am overjoyed."

The sentence against the 24-year-old Ms 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.

Ms 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 Ms Dalelv, who worked for an interior design firm in Qatar and was in Dubai on business 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 Ms Dalelv's alleged attacker, identified as a 33-year-old Sudanese man who was charged with consuming alcohol and with sex outside marriage.

While liquor is widely available in Dubai hotels and restaurants, public intoxication can bring serious charges.

"I have my life back," said Ms Dalelv. "This is a great day."

In Norway, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide posted a Twitter message: "Marte is released! Thanks to everyone who signed up to help."

Mr Barth Eide told a Norwegian news agency that international media attention and Norway's diplomatic measures helped Ms Dalelv, who is free on appeal with her next court hearing 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 serve as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries," Mr Barth Eide said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter: "Happy that Marte has been pardoned and that she is a free woman again."

Ms 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.

Irish Independent

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