The United Arab Emirates has pardoned a Norwegian woman who was sentenced to jail for “illicit sex” after she reported being raped by a colleague while on a visit to Dubai, the Norwegian foreign minister said.

"I warmly welcome that Marte Dalelv was pardoned by the ruler of Dubai today. The fight for human rights for all continues," Espen Barth Eide, Norway's foreign minister, said on Monday on his Twitter account.

Dalelv, 24, had been awaiting an appeal hearing of her 16-month sentence handed down this month after a court in the Gulf Arab emirate found her guilty of having sex outside marriage, drinking and making false statements.

I am very very happy. I don't know when I will get to go home, but I'll leave as soon as possible.

Marte Dalelv, Norwegian woman sentenced to jail after she reported being raped.

Dalelv, who has been staying at a Norwegian Christian centre in Dubai pending the appeal, said a male colleague pulled her into his hotel room and raped her after she asked him to help her find her own room when they had a few drinks.

Dalelv herself spoke of her relief and delight at the decision.

"I am very very happy. I don't know when I will get to go home, but I'll leave as soon as possible," she told reporters outside a Scandinavian social centre in Dubai, adding her passport had been returned.

Her colleague, who was sentenced to 13 months in prison for alcohol consumption and sex outside marriage, was also pardoned, Dalelv’s lawyer Mahmoud Azab told  the AFP news agency.

A Sudanese identified as Hawari in his 30s, "was also handed back his passport" and freed, Azab said.

Authorities from Dubai's public prosecutor's office had no immediate comment.

News of the sentence had dominated the front pages in Norway and raised questions about the judicial system in the Gulf state, which attracts large numbers of expatriates and tourists with a Western lifestyle but has little-publicised conservative laws covering sex and alcohol. 

In the United Arab Emirates, as in some other countries using Islamic law, a rape conviction can require either a confession or the testimony of four adult male witnesses.

Source: Agencies