Dubai pardons woman at center of rape case

Norwegian Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, arrives at the Norwegian Seaman's Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, July 22, 2013. Dalelv at the center of a Dubai rape claim dispute said Sunday that officials have dropped her 16-month sentence for having sex outside marriage and she is free to leave the country. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Norwegian Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, arrives at the Norwegian Seaman's Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, July 22, 2013. Dalelv at the center of a Dubai rape claim dispute said Sunday that officials have dropped her 16-month sentence for having sex outside marriage and she is free to leave the country. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Photo by AP
| Monday, July 22, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — With her passport back in hand, a Norwegian woman at the center of a Dubai rape claim dispute said Monday that officials dropped her 16-month sentence for having sex outside marriage in the latest clash between the city's Islamic-based legal codes and its international branding as a Western-friendly haven.

Dubai authorities hope the pardon of the 24-year-old will allow them to sidestep a potentially embarrassing blow to the city's heavily promoted image as a forward-looking model of luxury, excess and cross-cultural understanding.

“I am very, very happy,” Marte Deborah Dalelv told The Associated Press after she was cleared by the order of Dubai's ruler. “I am overjoyed.”

But the case points to wider issues embedded in the rapid rise of gulf centers such as Dubai and Qatar's capital of Doha, host for the 2022 World Cup. These cities' cosmopolitan ambitions often find themselves at odds with the tug of traditional views on sex and alcohol.

Most foreign residents and visitors coast through Dubai. Women in full Islamic garb shop alongside those in miniskirts, and liquor flows at resorts. Yet once authorities determine a legal line has been crossed, it's often bewildering.

Dalelv, in Dubai for a business meeting, said she told police in March that she was raped by a co-worker after a night that included cocktails. She was held in custody for four days. Her alleged attacker was also pardoned.

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