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Norwegian woman 'nervous, tense' as she risks UAE jail

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This family photo taken in Abu Dhabi in May 2013 shows Norwegian businesswoman Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24. She told AFP that she was "nervous and tense" as she risked 16 months in jail after she reported being raped by a coworker in the United Arab Emirates. (Scanpix/AFP/File)

A Norwegian woman told AFP Friday that she was "nervous and tense" as she risked 16 months in jail after she reported being raped by a coworker in the United Arab Emirates.

Marte Dalelv, 24, said she remained hopeful that she would succeed in an appeal against the ruling by a Dubai court that convicted her this week of extramarital sex, perjury and consuming alcohol without a licence.

"I am very nervous and tense. But I hope for the best and I take one day at a time. I just have to get through this," she told AFP by telephone from Dubai.

Calling the sentence "very harsh", she said she immediately filed an appeal, adding a new hearing is scheduled September 5.

Dalelv reported the rape to police in the United Arab Emirates in March this year and was immediately detained, being released four days later with the assistance of Norwegian diplomats.

Dalelv, who has been staying at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in Dubai for the past several months, emphasised she did not want to criticise the government of the United Arab Emirates.

"They have their legal system. I just want to get fair treatment," she said.

She told AFP that Norwegian authorities have agreed to pay for legal fees after she spent 55,000 Norwegian kronor (7,000 euros) on legal assistance.

Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was trying to reach his counterpart in the Gulf nation Friday about the case.

With communication slowed down by the month-long Ramadan holiday and Friday prayers, he had not been able to establish contact by late in the day, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.

"It seems very strange that a person who reports rape is sentenced for acts which in our part of the world is not even a crime," he said, according to NTB.

"The case illustrates the deeper problem that women all over the world are subjected to: First of all that they are not believed when they tell their story, and secondly that it is possible to be punished for so-called indecent behaviour."

According to Kathrine Raadim, the foreign minister's political advisor, it is out of the question for Norway to react by recalling its ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

"We would risk worsening Dalelv's situation in the midst of her appeal. I think everyone is better off with Norway having a diplomatic presence there," she told NTB.

The Norwegian opposition, however, demanded more robust action by the government.

"The least the Norwegian authorities can do is to let her stay at the embassy in Abu Dhabi, where she cannot be apprehended," said Per Willy Amundsen, a parliamentarian from the conservative Progress Party.

Dalelv herself told AFP she would prefer to stay in Dubai rather than moving to Abu Dhabi.

"I feel safe here and I know the place well. I have received a lot of help from the Norwegian consul in Dubai and I have visited the Norwegian embassy in Abu Dhabi and gotten advice there," she said.

"But I don't want to move there. That could be seen as if I am a criminal hiding from justice. I cannot leave the country anyway, since they have taken my passport."