07-03-2022  1:14 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

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Nicola Goulding and Jennifer Z. Deaton CNN

DUBAI (CNN) -- A Norwegian woman who was sentenced to prison in Dubai after reporting she was raped has been given a pardon and will be heading home soon, she said Monday.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Marte Deborah Dalelv seemed relieved and happy as she confirmed the news -- if still slightly bewildered by the swift turn of events.

"They told me that I would be pardoned and that they were going to give me my passport back -- so I got it immediately," she said.

A friend has taken the passport to a government department to get the necessary exit permit, she said.

Asked what happens next, Dalelv paused a moment before replying: "I get to go home."

She added, "We want to make it as soon as possible."

A spokeswoman for Norway's Foreign Ministry, Ragnhild Imerslund, earlier told CNN that Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had said Dalelv was free to travel where she wants and can remain in Dubai if she chooses.

The sheikh, who is vice president of the United Arab Emirates, also said the 24-year-old had not been and would not be deported, Imerslund said.

Dalelv, a Qatar-based interior designer, was on a work trip to Dubai when she reported to police that she had been raped by a colleague at the hotel where she was staying.

She was herself then detained and charged with having unlawful sex, making a false statement and illegal consumption of alcohol. A court last week sentenced her to 16 months in prison, prompting outrage in Norway.

Dalelv is currently still in Dubai but is expected to travel in a day or two, Imerslund said.

Dalelv's lawyer, Mahmoud Azab Abu Gareda, told CNN that the sheikh's pardon is "effectively a royal decree," which wipes the slate clean, leaving no record of her conviction.

This means that the alleged perpetrator, who was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage, also walks free, he said.

Dalelv has already dropped her case against him, so it will not be pursued further, he said.

Social media buzz

Ase Elin Bjerke, Norway's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, said her country had been working on Dalelv's behalf for several months -- and that she was very grateful for the decision to issue a pardon.

Bjerke said the case had resonated on social media both in Norway and elsewhere.

"I think people can see themselves in Marte," she said. "She has done what a lot of people would do when they come and visit Dubai. You are out with your friends and things roll on that you are not in control of. She is happy now and we are happy with her and she can return free to Norway."

Norway has a "very good" relationship with the United Arab Emirates, Bjerke said, adding that she credited the openness between the two nations for the outcome of this case.

Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide also welcomed news of Dalelv's pardon.

"Marte is released! Thanks to everyone who signed up to help #ReleaseMarte," his Twitter feed said.

Imerslund said "very constructive" dialogue between the foreign ministers of Norway and the UAE, along with international pressure and interest, led to this outcome in Dalelv's case.

On Friday, Eide had called his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to protest Dalelv's conviction as "contrary to fundamental human rights," a weekend statement from the Norwegian ministry said.

While Dubai has a reputation as a cosmopolitan city that boasts Western influences, where visitors can drink at bars and restaurants and unmarried couples can share hotel rooms, the country adheres to Islamic laws and traditions.

Having sex outside of marriage and public consumption of alcohol are both violations of the law in the United Arab Emirates.

Fired from her job

Dalelv no longer has a job with the company that sent her on the work assignment to Dubai.

She told CNN that a month after the rape, while forced to stay in Dubai as the case wound through the legal system, she was fired by her employer, Al Mana Interiors.

A representative of Al Mana Interiors, who declined to be publicly identified, said Saturday that Dalelv and the Sudanese man she accused -- who is married with three children -- were both terminated by Al Mana Interiors for "drinking alcohol at a staff conference that resulted in trouble with the police."

A statement released later the same day by Al Mana Interiors spokesman Hani El Korek said the company was sympathetic toward Dalelv "during this very difficult situation" and that her dismissal was not because of the rape claim.

The statement said that company representatives were by her side through the initial investigation, spending "days at both the police station and the prosecutor's office to help win her release."

"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 statement said.

"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."

Rights record criticized

The United Arab Emirates has been heavily criticized by rights groups, which say it condones sexual violence against women. Human Rights Watch has called its record "shameful," saying it must change the way it handles such cases.

In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai. She was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.

In January 2010, a British woman told authorities she was raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.

An Australian woman reported in 2008 that she was drugged and gang-raped. She was convicted of having sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

CNN's Nicola Goulding reported from Dubai and Jennifer Deaton in Atlanta. CNN's Phil O'Sullivan, Dareen Al Omari and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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Jan. 6 Committe Hearings - Day 6

A suprise hearing with newly discovered evidence will be held Tuesday, June 28 at 9:45 a.m. PT (12:45 p.m. ET).

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