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A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for breaking the country’s ban on female drivers.

The woman, identified only as Shema, was found guilty of driving in Jeddah in July.

Women2drive, a group campaigning for women to be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, says she has already lodged an appeal.

“I am very upset and disturbed… I believe that this is a message which intends to tell women that they will not get all their demands,” said Naila Attar, an activist and one of the women who organised the campaign Baladi (My Country), calling
for Saudi women to have the right to vote. “We are now working on a petition to the king … asking him to stop the lashing order,” she said.

The sentence was reported two days after Saudi King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections. He also promised to include them in the next all-appointed consultative Shura Council in 2013.

“Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car”, Philip Luther, an Amnesty regional deputy director, said in an emailed statement.

“Allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement, then the king’s much trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little,” Luther said.

Two other women are also believed to be facing charges related to driving, the Amnesty statement said.

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