Prince flays sentence against female driver

Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has strongly attacked a court which sentenced a local woman to 10 lashes for driving a car, describing the verdict as barbaric just before it was annulled by King Abdullah.

“This was a barbaric and inhuman decision to lash a Saudi lady for driving,” said the prince, a nephew of the Monarch and one of the world’s richest people.

“It’s clear some backward-thinking elements in the Saudi society want to harm the King’s name,” he told the US Forbes magazine.

Al-Waleed’s statement coincided with a landmark decision by King Abdullah to allow Saudi women to vote and run for election in the Shura, the Gulf Kingdom’s appointed parliament, according to Forbes.

Alwaleed added that the lashing punishment “goes against the king’s announcement” on Sunday to give women the right to vote beginning in 2015

A day after the woman from the western Red Sea port of Jeddah was sentenced to lashing, King Abdullah was reported to have overturned the ruling.

A Saudi court on Tuesday found Shaima Jastaina guilty of violating a long-standing driving ban in the conservative Moslem nation, and sentenced her to 10 lashes. The verdict took Saudi women by surprise, coming just a day after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights.

The harsh sentence marked the first time a legal punishment had been handed down since female activists began their campaign in June to break the taboo in this ultraconservative Muslim nation.

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