A Norwegian woman who had alleged rape in Dubai but was convicted of alcohol consumption and extramarital sex and had been facing a 16-month jail term, was “pardoned” on Monday.

“I was told that I’ve been pardoned,” Marte Deborah Dalelv, the Norwegian interior designer, told reporters outside a Dubai court. She said her passport had been returned, and she would leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) “as soon as possible”.

Her case, which grabbed international headlines, has highlighted the clash in the rapidly modernising metropolis between western attitudes and a judicial system rooted in Islamic law. While Dubai is attracting international tourists in droves with its dazzling urban landscape, few seem aware of the legal regulations governing alcohol intake and sex outside marriage in the city. Alcoholic beverages are served in licensed hotels and restaurants in Dubai but drunken behaviour and public show of affection is frowned upon.


In Oslo, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide confirmed that Ms. Dalelv had been allowed to leave the UAE. AFP quoted a ministry spokeswoman as saying that Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum had pardoned Ms. Dalelv. “She hasn’t been deported, she has been pardoned. She can remain in Dubai if she wishes. Her passport has been returned to her,” said Ragnhild Imerslund, the spokeswoman.

Global prominence

The latest order has also freed Ms. Dalelv’s alleged assailant, a co-worker, who had earlier been sentenced to 13 months in prison for extramarital sex and alcohol consumption. The incident apparently took place in March but acquired international prominence only after Ms. Dalely revealed her side of the story during a string of interviews that followed her conviction.

Ms. Dalely had been facing a 16-month prison term on charges of extramarital sexual relations, alcohol use and perjury after she told UAE police that she had been raped during a business trip to Dubai.

Her sentencing had raised a firestorm, especially in her native Norway, where the authorities, including Mr. Barth Eide, the Foreign Minister, had gone into overdrive in Ms. Dalely’s defence. Mr. Barth Eide had earlier told reporters in Oslo: “We believe this is a completely unacceptable verdict, which is contrary to human rights and the basic sense of justice.” On Monday after Ms. Dalely had been set free, he added: “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.”

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