Austria brings home rape case woman from Dubai

VIENNA Fri Jan 31, 2014 7:10am EST

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VIENNA Jan 31 (Reuters) - An Austrian Muslim woman at the centre of a rape case in Dubai has returned home with the help of Austria's foreign ministry after a storm of publicity and an online campaign on her behalf.

The unidentified 29-year-old tourist told authorities she was raped in the underground garage of a luxury hotel in early December and was then jailed herself for several days.

She reported the case to the Austrian embassy four days later, the foreign ministry said.

According to the Gulf News, a local newspaper, the woman was facing possible charges of consuming alcohol and having consensual sex with a Yemeni man - who denied rape and said he had agreed to have sex with her for money.

Islam bans extramarital sex and alcohol for Muslims. In Dubai, the most cosmopolitan of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation, non-Muslims can drink at certain hotels and bars.

Officials in Dubai could not be reached for comment on the Austrian woman's case on Friday, the weekend in the UAE.

The woman was no longer in custody and the circumstances of her return to Austria were not immediately clear.

Michael Linhart, secretary general of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told ORF radio on Friday that Vienna had been in touch with Dubai officials and provided legal aid in the woman's case.

"We noticed that a favourable moment arose to get her out. Minister (Sebastian) Kurz personally authorised me to travel down there and if possible to bring her back to Vienna and that is what we did," he said.

The delegation arrived in Vienna on Thursday night, where Kurz welcomed her home.

"She is doing well, she is well and healthy and is glad to be in safety," Linhart said.

The Avaaz advocacy group said 250,000 people had signed an online petition calling for the woman to be freed.

Dubai attracts large numbers of expatriates and tourists with a Western lifestyle, a few of whom fall foul of conservative laws on sex and alcohol.

In July, Dubai pardoned a Norwegian woman who had been sentenced to jail for illicit sex after reporting being raped by a colleague while on a visit to the emirate. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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