A Norwegian woman who was sentenced to prison in Dubai after reporting that 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.
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."
Dalelv has her passport in her possession and filed the paperwork for an exit visa Monday afternoon. She hopes to find out Tuesday when she can leave the country.
A spokeswoman for Norway's Foreign Ministry, Ragnhild Imerslund, said 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. She is expected to travel in a day or two, the spokeswoman 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's lawyer, Mahmoud Azab Abu Gareda, said the sheikh's pardon is "effectively a royal decree," which wipes the slate clean, leaving no record of her conviction.
This means the alleged perpetrator, who was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage, also walks free, he said.
Dalelv has dropped her case against him, so it will not be pursued further, he said.
Dalelv said she had not known what to expect when she went into a meeting Monday with the Dubai attorney general, her lawyers and Norway's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Ase Elin Bjerke.
"I just went in with an open mind, and they said, 'Well, we are pardoning you.' This is such a good day," Dalelv said.
"Now I get my exit visa, and then I am going home to see my mum!"
Dalelv gave insight into the pressure she has been under, saying that she knew what had happened to her but that she had started to believe she was "guilty emotionally."
She said it was a "fantastic feeling" to have her freedom back and be able to leave Dubai, but at the same time she would miss the friends she has made.
Bjerke, Norway's envoy, said that 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 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.
Islamic laws, traditions
Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide also welcomed news of Dalelv's pardon.