DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai has pardoned a Norwegian woman who was sentenced to jail for illicit sex after she reported being raped by a colleague while on a visit to the emirate, the public prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, had been awaiting an appeal hearing against her 16-month sentence, handed down last week after a court in the Gulf Arab emirate found her guilty of having sex outside marriage, drinking alcohol and making false statements.
Dubai’s public prosecutor’s office confirmed in a statement to Reuters that pardons had been granted to both Dalelv and the Sudanese man she accused, Hourai Massoud, who had been convicted of drinking alcohol and “consensual rape”.
“I am very, very happy,” Dalelv told the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. “I don’t know when I will get to go home, but I’ll leave as soon as possible ... I am free, finally.”
News of the sentence had dominated front pages in Norway and raised questions about the judicial system in the Gulf state, which attracts large numbers of expatriates and tourists with a Western lifestyle, a few of whom fall foul of little-publicized conservative laws on sex and alcohol.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide tweeted: “I warmly welcome that Marte Dalelv was pardoned by the ruler of Dubai today. The fight for human rights for all continues.”
Eide had told reporters Norway considered the verdict “completely unacceptable” and contrary to human rights and basic justice.
The prosecution statement said the pardons “matched the terms that were recently approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy prime minister and ruler of Dubai, on a number of convicts in cases in the emirate”.
It added that both Dalelv, who had been staying at a Norwegian Christian center in Dubai pending her appeal, and Massoud agreed to drop their appeals before being pardoned.
Dalelv had said Massoud had been sentenced to a year in prison, although the statement did not specify this.
Dalelv had said that she and Massoud had had a few drinks together, but that when she asked him to help her find her way to her own hotel room, he had pulled her into his room and raped her.
Dalelv said she had chosen to speak about her case in public to warn others of the risks involved in rape cases in the Gulf state.
“This conviction was wrong from the very beginning and contrary to human rights. Women should never be afraid to report rape,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
In the United Arab Emirates, as in some other countries using Islamic law, a rape conviction can require either a confession or the testimony of four adult male witnesses.
Reporting by Amena Bakr, Sami Aboudi, Mirna Sleiman in Dubai and Balazs Koranyi in Oslo; Editing by Kevin Liffey