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Jailing business visitor after she was raped shames Dubai

July 22, 2013 Destination Dubai, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59In a case with disturbing implications for visitors to Dubai, a 25-year-old businesswoman from Norway has been sentenced to 16 months in prison in the Gulf state after she reported to local police that she had been raped.

The case is chillingly similar to that of Alicia Gali, an Australian who earlier this year described how she was jailed in Dubai for eight months after being raped at Le Méridien Al Aqah hotel while working for the Starwood hotel chain there.

In the latest case, Norwegian Marte Deborah Dalelv, an interior designer, has come forward and released her name to help publicise her case. Visiting Dubai on a business trip, she says she was assaulted and raped by a co-worker in a hotel room. She reported it to hotel reception and asked the hotel to contact police immediately. To her shock, however, she found that not only did the police disbelieve her, they locked her up on suspicion of having had sex outside marriage.

Police confiscated Dalelv’s passport and would not let her make phone calls for days. She was finally allowed to phone her family and the Norwegian consulate and was released into the protection of the Norwegian Sailor’s Church in Dubai until her sentencing this week, a Mail Online report said.

“I received the harshest sentence for sex outside marriage, harshest sentence for drinking alcohol and on top of that I was found guilty of perjury,” she told Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang.

The priest at the Norwegian Sailor’s Church in Dubai, Gisle Meling, told the paper: “We are very surprised and had hoped it would go another way, but we live in a country which has a justice system which draws its conclusions with the help of Sharia law.”

The young Norwegian woman’s ordeal follows a string of similarly disturbing incidents in a country which is receiving more western visitors than ever because of its position as a world airline hub and international business centre.

Dubai, an emirate belonging to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is a place where international visitors and foreign workers greatly outnumber citizens.

The case of Australian Alicia Gali, 27, saw her jailed for eight months in Dubai after reporting her rape. Gali had been working for Starwood when her drink was allegedly spiked in the staff bar. (Starwood is heavily involved in Dubai and earlier this year relocated its global headquarters from Stamford, Connecticut to Dubai for a month.)

Gali says three colleagues raped her in the incident in 2008. When she went to a hospital for help, the hospital turned her over to the police, who charged her with illicit sex outside marriage.

Under Sharia-influenced laws, sex outside marriage is completely forbidden. Rape appears to count as sex. Rapists can be convicted only if they confess, or if four adult Muslim males witness the crime. An unmarried couple holding hands in public can be jailed.

Last year, a British woman, allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped by three men in Dubai, was prosecuted for drinking without a licence and fined about AUD 250. While alcohol is sold in Dubai, public intoxication can bring charges.

Human Rights Watch says the UAE does not do enough to protect victims of sexual assault – and visitors can be caught up as well as residents. Victims reporting crimes often end up being charged themselves.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warns Australian travellers visiting the UAE to “be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you.

“De facto relationships, homosexual relationships and acts, adultery and prostitution are illegal and subject to severe punishment. Sex outside of marriage is illegal and may lead to imprisonment. It is also against the law in the UAE to live together or share the same hotel room with someone of the opposite sex to whom you are not married or closely related. These laws apply to residents as well as visitors.

“The UAE has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal drugs,” DFAT adds.

“Penalties can include the death sentence or life imprisonment. Medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in the UAE.”

Other cases involving foreigners in the UAE have included:

  • Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Lewis, 25, were each sentenced to a month in prison in 2010 after being accused of kissing on the lips in a restaurant. They claimed it was just a peck on the cheek as a greeting.
  • Businessman Steven Sherriff, 43, was jailed for six months for pinching a woman’s bottom in a bar. He denied the incident took place and successfully appealed, but his legal costs were ruinous, topping AUD 100,000.
  • Rebecca Blake, 29, and Conor McRedmond, 27, were jailed for three months and fined over AUD1500 after allegedly having drunken sex in the back of a taxi. They denied it and DNA tests later confirmed they were innocent.
  • Three British men, jailed for four years in Dubai earlier this year, were pardoned last week under a UAE amnesty for the holy month of Ramadan. They had been found guilty of possessing synthetic cannabis in April but strenuously denied the charges. They claimed they were tortured by police with electric shocks and beatings following their arrest while on holiday in the Gulf state last July.

Common pharmaceutical medicines can also lead to trouble in Dubai. A leading travel insurance provider for travel agents in Australia, SureSave, has warned travellers about extremely stringent drug laws in place in the UAE.

They covered “a wide range of common medicines, including codeine-based painkillers, valium and ritalin”, Michael McAuliffe said. These are common enough in Australia but all are illegal in the UAE.

“Should they be found on a traveller, there can be serious consequences,” McAuliffe warned.

“Even the most minuscule traces of any controlled substance on an individual’s person, or in some cases, in their bloodstream, can potentially land them in prison. In one high profile case, a British woman was found to have codeine in her body and was held in a Dubai jail for eight weeks before being sent home.  Travellers need to be aware.”

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (states), each with its own ruler. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Alcohol is generally served only in hotel restaurants and bars in the UAE (but not in the state of Sharjah). Nightclubs and golf clubs are permitted to sell alcohol. Drinking without a liquor licence is technically illegal in Dubai, though bars and hotels never ask to see the document.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Alex Isin says:

    Simple solution to all these troubles is book a flight that doesn’t touch down at Dubai.I suggest Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines for best service and stopover holiday.

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