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Saudi Arabia penalises woman 'for driving car' before ban lift

Saudi Arabia is set to lift the ban on women driving in June 2018 [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2017

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Saudi police have penalised a woman filmed driving a car, a spokesman said on Monday, warning against violations of a ban on female drivers due to be lifted next June.

A Saudi woman filmed driving a car has been penalised by
police, a spokesman said on Monday, with law enforcers warning against violations of a ban on female drivers set to be lifted next June.

The woman was summoned to a station and booked for flouting traffic regulations after she appeared in a video driving out of a luxury hotel in the capital Riyadh.

"We call on all Saudi citizens to respect the law and wait until the ban on women driving formally ends," the police spokesman told AFP.

He did not specify the nature of the penalty, but added that the woman filmed leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel had not been arrested. 

He said the owner of the car was separately booked for violating traffic regulations.

Last month, Saudi Arabia made a historic decision to allow women to obtain driving permits under a royal decree to take effect in June, sparking euphoria and disbelief among activists who long fought the ban.

The Gulf kingdom was the only country in the world to bar women from taking the wheel, a ban seen globally as a symbol of repression.

But many women fear they are still easy prey for conservatives in a nation where male "guardians" - typically their fathers, husbands or brothers - have arbitrary authority to take decisions on their behalf.

The latest development comes just weeks after Saudi authorities arrested a man for allegedly threatening to attack women drivers following the royal decree.

The ministry said on Twitter that police in the kingdom's Eastern Province had arrested the suspect, who was not identified, and referred him to the public prosecutor.

"I swear to God, any woman whose car breaks down - I will burn her and her car," said a man wearing a traditional white robe who appeared in a short video distributed online earlier in the week.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Saudi media, including the Arabic-language Okaz newspaper, quoted the Eastern Province's police spokesman as saying the man in custody was in his 20s and that the arrest had been ordered by its governor.

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