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HRW calls for release of jailed Saudi woman driver

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 18:04

Jeddah: Saudi Arabia should "immediately"
release a woman jailed for breaking the kingdom`s ban on women
driving, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that also
criticised the ban itself.

"King Abdullah should immediately order the release of
Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested ... after she defied the
kingdom`s de facto ban on driving by women," New York-based
HRW said in a statement today, referring to the Saudi monarch.

"Arresting a woman who drove her family around in a
car and then showed it online opens Saudi Arabia to
condemnation -- and, in fact, to mockery -- around the world,"
HRW senior Middle East researcher Christoph Wilcke said in the

"King Abdullah should end Saudi Arabia`s pariah status
in the world as the sole country banning women from driving,"
Wilcke said.

"Just as his predecessors made their mark by
introducing education for girls, King Abdullah can shape his
legacy by opening the roads to women drivers."

Manal al-Sharif was arrested on Saturday while driving
in the Eastern Province city of Al-Khobar, a day after she
posted a footage on the video-sharing website YouTube showing
her behind the wheel.

Although traffic police released her after a few
hours, the 32-year-old computer security consultant was later
re-apprehended from her home by criminal investigation police,
her lawyer Adnan al-Saleh said.

"She has been charged with spurring women to drive, on
the Internet, and inciting public opinion," he told AFP by
telephone on Monday, after meeting Sharif in prison.

He said police ordered her to remain in custody for
five days pending further investigations.

In addition to not being allowed to drive, women in
Saudi Arabia are banned from travelling without authorisation
from a male guardian. They are also obliged to cover from head
to toe when in public.


First Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 18:04
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