Interior designer appealing 'very harsh' sentence for illicit sex after she reported being raped by a co-worker.
The Norwegian interior designer convicted in Dubai of having illegal sex after she reported being raped is appealing her jail sentence and alerting Western women to the Islam-based legal system of the United Arab Emirates.
"I just want to get fair treatment," Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, told the AFP news agency Friday. She called her 16-month sentence Tuesday — for extramarital sex, perjury and illegal alcohol consumption — "very harsh," saying she had appealed immediately. A hearing is set for Sept. 5.
Since the Norwegian government secured Dalelv's conditional release after she was charged in March, she has been living under the protection of the Norwegian Seamens' Center, a church in Dubai. But now that she has been sentenced, she told Norway's NRK News that she is officially wanted by the authorities, the BBC reported.
"I should have been imprisoned since Tuesday," she said. "But I have been told they are not searching for me."
STORY: Dubai imprisons Norwegian woman who reported rape
She told AFP she was "very nervous and tense."
"I hope for the best, and I take one day at a time," she said by telephone. "I just have to get through this."
Nonetheless, Dalelv stressed she did not want to criticize the UAE government.
"They have their legal system," she said.
Under United Arab Emirates law, sex outside of marriage is illegal, and a rape conviction requires either a confession or four adult male witnesses to the attack. Similar convictions involving foreigners and Emirati women have occurred over the past several years, although the law on extramarital sex is not generally enforced for tourists or several hundred thousand Westerners and others living there on resident visas.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Dalelv said she wanted to "spread the word" about significant differences in the emirates' legal code compared with Western legal systems.
"After my sentence we thought, 'How can it get worse?'" she said from the church. She has been in regular contact with her family, who live outside of Oslo.
Explaining the March 6 attack at a hotel where she was attending a business conference, Dalelv said she awoke to find a co-worker raping her. She fled to the lobby to report the assault, and said the staff questioned whether she wanted to involve the police.
After questioning and a medical examination, she wound up being jailed for four days, charged and having her passport confiscated.
Dalelv said her attacker was sentenced to 13 months for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol without a license.
She also revealed that she was suspended by Qatar-based home-furnishings company The One after her arrest, according to media in Norway, where her case has dominated the news and sparked outrage.
She told NRK that her suspension letter cited "gross misconduct on the job in direct violation of the company's policy" and the firm wants to fire her.
In response, Norwegian colleges cut their ties with The One, which has recruited students from across Scandinavia to come work in the Gulf, The Local reported.
Dubai authorities have not responded or issued any public statements about her case.
Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said was trying to reach his counterpart in the Gulf nation, but communications were slowed by Ramadan and Friday, Islam's holy day.
Thursday, the Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs said the verdict "flies in the face of our notion of justice" and was "highly problematic" in terms of Western human rights.
Westerners often misunderstand Dubai, a cosmopolitan Arabian Gulf city-state boasting the tallest building in the world and glamorous malls.
"It can seem modern here, and the comfort level is high," one Norwegian resident told NRK. "But it's a Muslim country, and folks must realize that before they travel."
Noting the influence of Sharia law, he added, "In reality, there are completely different rules that apply, completely shocking rules."