Update: Saudi Arabia: Woman driver pardoned by Saudi King
A Saudi woman sentenced to be lashed 10 times for defying the country's ban on female drivers has had her punishment overturned by the king.
The woman, named as Shaima Jastaina and believed to be in her 30s, was found guilty of driving without permission in Jeddah in July. Her case was the first in which a legal punishment was handed down for a violation of the ban in the ultraconservative Muslim nation.
Although there has been no official confirmation of the ruling, Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, tweeted: "Thank God, the lashing of [Shaima] is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved king. I am sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am."
She later added that she and her husband had spoken to Shaima, who told them: "The king's orders washed the fears I lived with after this unjust sentence."
Jastaina was sentenced on Monday — a day after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and said women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. He also promised to appoint women to the all-male Shura council advisory body.
The moves underline the challenge facing Abdullah, known as a reformer, as he pushes gently for change while trying not to antagonise the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population.
Although there are no written laws that restrict women from driving, the prohibition is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.
Police usually stop female drivers, question them and let them go after they sign a pledge not to drive again. But dozens of women have continued to take to the roads since June in a campaign to break the taboo.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300-$400 (£190-£255) a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them.
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