Saudi King Revokes Lashing Sentence for Female Driver

Saudi King Abdullah has revoked the sentence of 10 lashes imposed on a woman for driving in the conservative kingdom, a government official said.

The official didn't elaborate on Abdullah's decision, and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Saudi Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, wife of billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Amira, also announced the development Wednesday on her Twitter account.

"Thank God, the lashing of Sheima is cancelled," the posting read. "Thanks to our beloved King. I'm sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am."

Shaima Ghassaniya was found guilty on Tuesday of driving without the government's permission. The ruling came just two days after Saudi King Abdullah announced that women have the right to vote for the first time in the country's 2015 local elections.

No laws explicitly prohibit women from driving, although conservative religious edicts have banned it. Tuesday's verdict was the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, where other women were detained for driving for several days but had not been sentenced by a court.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, Philip Luther, deputy director of the Middle Eastern-North Africa program of Amnesty International, said he would be surprised if the sentence was carried out.

"It would get a lot of international attention and I think the Saudi authorities would struggle with that," he told "The spotlight may make it harder for them to do."

Despite granting women the right to vote, Luther said Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic laws still function in a "guardianship system" in which women need a male guardian's permission to work or travel abroad.

"It's fair to say [the right to drive] is packaged along with other restrictions," Luther said. "It's seen as part of that package to ensure that social conservative stability is maintained."

Luther said the right to drive campaign has been seen as similar to public protest by the conservative establishment.

"If women are allowed to do that, then perhaps other forms of public protest will be allowed," he said. "There's an implicit threat there."'s Joshua Rhett Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.