The owner of Dubai-based The ONE has conceded it was “absolutely wrong” to sack a Norwegian woman who was charged with extramarital sex after reporting she had been raped.
Marte Deborah Dalelv was terminated from her job at Doha’s Al Mana Interiors, a franchise of The ONE, before being given a 16-month jail term. On Monday, Dubai’s Ruler Sheikh Mohammed pardoned her.
Speaking to Arabian Business, The ONE owner Thomas Lundgren said that, in hindsight, sacking Dalelv was “a mistake” and that Al Mana Interiors should have only put her position on hold until the legal process was completed.
“That was a mistake because it has no justice,” Lundgren said.
“The termination was absolutely wrong. That was unnecessary, totally unnecessary.”
Dalelv was sacked in a letter signed by Al Mana Interiors boss Wissam Al Mana. “... your employment agreement is termination due to your unacceptable and improper behavior [sic] during your last business trip in Dubai, which has resulted in your arrest by the Police Authorities in UAE,” the termination letter dated April 9 says.
Lundgren said both Dalelv and the Sudanese colleague who was accused of raping her and sentenced to 13 months’ jail for extramarital sex would be offered back their jobs.
“If she wants to work [in Doha] or for us she has a job,” he said.
“He [Al Mana] has no problem with her, I can promise you that.
“Me and [Al Mana] have had long discussions about this and me and him feel we should have been much more involved.”
Dalelv would be offered whatever support she wanted – and so too would the male colleague.
“It’s all about what she wants,” Lundgren said. “She will tell me exactly what she wants and I will help her with anything she needs.
“But I will do that for the other guy also. I will not treat them differently, that would be absolutely unethical.”
Dalelv, an interior designer, was in Dubai for a short business trip in March when she claims she was raped by her colleague after she asked him to escort her to her room at the end of a work event where they had both been drinking alcohol.
She was charged with extramarital sex and illegally drinking alcohol after reporting the incident to police.
She said she was later advised by an Al Mana Interiors manager to say the sex was voluntary and the matter would be dismissed. However, she was then also charged with making a false statement.
Lundgren said he would not make any judgment on either former employee.
“He says he didn’t do it,” he said. “Did he do it, did she [lie]? I don’t know.”
Lundgren said he had seen parts of hotel video footage showing the pair leaving the event and walking to a hotel room.
“She followed him into the room and what happened in that room is between two people and it’s up to the legal system to decide that,” he said.
“There is a legal system in the Middle East and if you [are] in the Middle East you have to live by the rules in the Middle East.”
A statement released on Sunday by Al Mana Interiors said it had supported Dalelv throughout the ordeal.
“We are sympathetic to Marte Dalelv during this very difficult situation,” the statement said.
“Only when Ms. Dalelv declined to have positive and constructive discussions about her employment status, and ceased communication with her employer, was the company forced to end our relationship with her.
“The decision had nothing to do with the rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms. Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to contact the company to discuss her employment status.
“We continue to be open to helping Ms. Dalelv and extending her resources during the Dubai legal process. We are hopeful that we can resume a positive discussion about the assistance she needs during this difficult time.”