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Earlier this spring, Marte Deborah Dalelv, a Norwegian interior designer, was on a business trip to Dubai when she claimed one of her colleagues raped her.  Now, it turns out, she may end up going to jail herself.  CNN spoke with Dalelv yesterday about her ordeal--watch here.


She said she had been out at a bar with her colleagues and friends, and asked a male colleague to walk her to her room when they returned at 3 a.m. to the hotel. She'd asked him to escort her because the hotel was large and confusing, and she didn't want to be wandering on her own, knowing she'd been drinking, she said.

When they reached a room, she realized it wasn't hers -- but the man then pulled her inside despite her vocal objections, according to Dalelv.

"He dragged me by my purse in, so I thought, 'OK, I just need to calm the situation down. I will finish my bottle of water, I will sit here and then I will excuse myself and say I feel fine,'" she said.

That was pretty much the last thing she said she remembers before the alleged sexual assault. "I woke up with my clothes off, sleeping on my belly, and he was raping me. I tried to get off, I tried to get him off, but he pushed me back down."

Naturally, Dalelv called the police.  But she knew it wasn't going to go well when one of the officers asked her, "Are you sure you called the police because you just didn't like it?"  She was then held in jail for four days before a representative of the Norwegian consulate got her released.  It was only then that she found out she'd been charged with public consumption of alcohol and sex outside of marriage.  In most countries, what happened to Dalelv would be almost unthinkable.

A few days later, a police officer told her that the way things were in Dubai, the whole thing would go away if she said the encounter was consensual.  Although Dubai and the rest of the UAE may look cosmopolitan, they have also come under fire for how they handle cases of sexual violence against women.  According to the BBC, short of a confession, it takes testimony from four male witnesses to get a rape conviction.  So Dalelv took that advice--and faced new charges of making a false statement.  She was convicted on all charges on Tuesday, and now faces a sentence of 16 years in prison.  However, she's appealing her sentence starting on September 5.  She's been staying at the Norwegian Seaman's Center in Dubai since being released, but there's a good chance she could end up going back to jail when the appeals process starts.

According to the BBC, the guy who allegedly raped Dalelv was sentenced to 13 months in jail for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol.  Still, this sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone or the Onion.

The Norwegian government is up in arms over this affair, to the point that the country's foreign minister has personally gotten involved.

Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide called his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, on Friday night to protest Dalelv's sentencing, a statement from the Norwegian ministry said.

"I emphasized that we believe that the conviction is contrary to fundamental human rights, including conventions that the UAE have officially ratified," Eide is quoted as saying.

"Norway will continue to do what we can to support her in what is a very difficult situation. Our cooperation with the UAE is strong and good, but I conveyed to my colleague that we are worried that this difficult case may disturb our good relations if we do not reach a good solution in the near future."

Dalelv told CNN she received a call from Eide on Friday reiterating Norway's support.

I knew the UAE was backwards.  After all, this is a country that once tried to install spyware on BlackBerries being used there.  But from where I sit, this is something that calls for an international outcry.  Dalelv's supporters have started a Facebook page to draw attention to her cause and get her released.  Check it out here.  Also, sign this petition.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by More and Better Democracies.

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