29 Sep 2011

Saudi king ‘commutes’ woman driver’s flogging

The ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, overturns a court’s sentence of 10 lashes imposed on a woman for breaking a driving ban in the country.

King of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah (Getty)

The woman, named as Shayma Jastaniah, was found guilty of driving on the streets of Jeddah and sentenced under sharia law to flogging and a fine because she drove without a Saudi driving licence.

Saudi rights groups have claimed that the decision to sentence Ms Jastaniah to 10 lashes for driving her car was payback by the ruling class for this week’s landmark speech by King Abdullah, which cleared the way for women to participate in elections.

In May, women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif attracted international attention after she was arrested for driving in the conservative Arab state.

It is understood that the king has no real objection to allowing Saudi women to drive. However, he considered such a move might be rejected by wider Saudi society.

Other women are due to appear in court on similar charges. One, Najla Hariri told Arab media: “I received a call informing me that I’m expected to appear in the Jeddah court after a month for the charge of driving.

“It’s ironic that this happened one day after the custodian of the two holy mosques decided to allow women to become members of the Shura council, as well as vote and run for the municipal council.”