Norwegian woman warns of justice in Dubai after alleged rape

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Norwegian woman sentenced to 16 months in jail in Dubai for having sex outside marriage because she reported an alleged rape said Friday she decided to speak out in hopes of drawing attention to the risks of outsiders misunderstanding the Islam-influenced legal codes in this cosmopolitan city.

The case has drawn outrage from rights groups and others in the West since the 24-year-old interior designer was sentenced on Wednesday. It also highlights the increasingly frequent tensions between the United Arab Emirates' international atmosphere and its legal system, which is strongly influenced by Islamic traditions in a nation where foreign workers and visitors greatly outnumber locals.

Marte Deborah Dalelv, who worked for an interior design firm in Qatar, claims she was sexually assaulted by a co-worker in March while she was attending a business meeting in Dubai.

She said she fled to the hotel lobby and asked for the police to be called. The hotel staff asked whether she was sure she wanted to involve the police, Dalelv said.

“Of course I want to call the police,” she said. “That is the natural reaction where I am from.”

Dalelv was detained for four days after being accused of having sex outside marriage, which is outlawed in the UAE. The law generally is not enforced for tourists as well as hundreds of thousands of Westerners and others on resident visas.

Norwegian diplomats later secured her release. She has been allowed to remain at the Norwegian Seamen's Center in central Dubai, where she is preparing her appeal scheduled for early September. She said her alleged attacker received a 13-month sentence for out-of-wedlock sex and alcohol consumption.

“This verdict flies in the face of our notion of justice,” Norway's foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, told the NTB news agency, calling it “highly problematic from a human rights perspective.”

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