Saudi woman driver’s lashing ‘overturned by king’

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has overturned a court ruling sentencing a woman to 10 lashes for breaking a ban on female drivers, reports say.

The ruling, although not officially confirmed, was tweeted by a Saudi princess and reported by AP news agency citing an unnamed official.

The woman, named as Shema, was found guilty of driving in Jeddah in July.

The sentence came two days after the king announced women would be allowed to vote for the first time in 2015.

“Thank God, the lashing of Shema is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved king,” tweeted Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

“I am sure all Saudi women will be so happy.”

Two other women are due to appear in court later this year on similar charges, reports say.

In recent months, scores of women have driven vehicles in Saudi cities to put pressure on the monarchy.

Jedda-based journalist Maha Akeel said the initial court ruling had gone against the general trend, with police stopping few Saudi women drivers.

“It seems the official stand is to ignore those women… and let the public slowly get used to to the idea of women driving before making it official,” she told the BBC.

“So far, the reaction has been positive. Most of the people have no problem.”

There was cause for optimism, both in terms of the right to drive and participation in wider, political society, she added.

The Saudi interpretation of Islamic law includes the guardianship system under which women need permission from a male relative to participate in public life.

However, correspondents say King Abdullah has struck a reformist stance since he ascended the throne in 2005, especially in regard to women’s rights.

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