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Monday, July 22, 2013

Norwegian Woman, Sentenced After Reporting Rape in Dubai, Is ‘Pardoned’

A Norwegian woman who reported that she was raped in Dubai but then was sentenced to a 16-month jail sentence on charges including extramarital sex said on Monday that she had been “pardoned” and was free to leave the country.

Dubai, one of six principalities in the United Arab Emirates, is keen on preserving an image as a good place for foreign companies to do business and investment. The rape case attracted attention after the woman, Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, said the Dubai police detained her instead of helping after she reported that a colleague raped her during a business trip to the emirate in March, according to news reports, including this one from The Associated Press.

She later faced trial and was sentenced last week to the prison term by a Dubai court on charges including drinking alcohol.

In the wake of her allegations, online petitions called for boycotts of the emirate, and the case was given broader attention when shared on Twitter via #ReleaseMarte and in a Facebook page set up to support her. The Norwegian government had complained to the authorities in Dubai, and on Monday the foreign affairs minister, Espen Barth Eide, reported on his Twitter feed that Ms. Dalelv had been “pardoned,” a choice of words that was criticized for its implication that she had committed a crime.

In audio of an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Ms. Dalelv said that in a meeting on Monday, the public prosecutor told her: “You have been pardoned. He told us that it is from the ruler of Dubai. It is unbelievable. It is a very, very good day.”

She said she had been given her passport back and believed she would be able to leave on Tuesday, after paperwork was completed. “It has been really, really tough,” she said. “It has just been going on for so long, but I am just so happy that finally I can go home.”

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK quoted her on its Web site as saying after the news of the pardon: “I am very, very happy. Now I am free. Finally.”

News of her pardon was shared online and welcomed by rights groups and nonprofit organizations. The deputy head of the nonprofit organization Partnership for Change, Jonas Borchgrevink, said on his Twitter feed @jonasMGA that public pressure might have come to bear on the case.

Ms. Dalelv was quoted as saying in press reports based on the Norwegian broadcaster NRK that her attacker was given a 13-month jail sentence for extramarital sex and alcohol consumption.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, linked to a Gulf News article that quoted Ms. Dalelv’s lawyer, Mahmoud Azad Abu Gareda, as saying that her accused rapist, a 33-year-old man who was her boss, and who was jailed for 13 months, had also been pardoned.

The Emirates Center for Human Rights said in a statement that the laws needed to be changed.

Ms. Dalelv had been working in interior design for a Qatari company of Wissam al-Mana, the husband of the American pop star Janet Jackson. A letter published on another Norwegian news Web site showed that Mr. al Mana had signed a letter dated April 2013, terminating her employment, citing misconduct.

On July 20, the company, Al Mana Interiors, defended its position in ending her employment.

Company representatives have been supportive and in communication with Marte throughout her ordeal. 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 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.

Ms. Dalelv’s father, Stefar Toregier Furesund, told the NTB news agency last Thursday that his daughter reported a rape on March 6 to the authorities, who confiscated her passport and money and went on to prosecute her instead.

“She called after four days in jail and told me that she had been raped and was in jail,” Mr. Furesund was quoted as saying. “In my view, this is completely absurd. It’s a natural reaction to go to the police when you have been raped. You don’t expect to be sent to jail yourself,” he said about the verdict, which was passed down last Wednesday and also included perjury charges.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.