msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/28/2011 4:38:48 PM ET 2011-09-28T20:38:48

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has put a stop to the lashing of a woman who defied the kingdom's ban on female drivers, a government official said.

The official declined to elaborate. He spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

"Thank God, the lashing of Shaima is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved King," Saudi Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel posted on her Twitter account Wednesday. "I'm sure all Saudi women will be so happy,I know I am."

Al-Taweel is the wife of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Amira. Al-Taweel said in a later post on twitter the prince had confirmed the sentence had been revoked by the king.

Story: Saudi court orders woman to be whipped for driving car

The driver, Shaima Jastaina, was sentenced on Tuesday to be lashed 10 times with a whip for a violation of the longtime driving ban for women in the ultraconservative Muslim nation.

Normally, police just stop female drivers, question them and let them go after they sign a pledge not to drive again. But dozens of women have continued to take to the roads since June in a campaign to break the taboo.

Story: Saudi king: Women will be able to vote in municipal elections

The lashing sentence came just two days after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and decreed that women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. Abdullah also promised to appoint women to a currently all-male advisory body known as the Shura Council.

The Associated Press reported that Jastaina, in her 30s, had appealed the verdict.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

There are no written laws that restrict women from driving. Rather, the ban is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Saudi Arabia to allow women to vote in 2015

  1. Closed captioning of: Saudi Arabia to allow women to vote in 2015

    >>> overseas tonight there's pretty revolutionary news from saudi arabia . widely seen as one of the most repressive places on earth for women . they may be seeing the handwriting on the wall . women have been given the right to vote starting four years from now. our report tonight from stephanie gosk.

    >> reporter: it is the birth place of islam, and governed by one of the strictest interpretations of muslim law in the world. change in saudi arabia happened slowly, but it's happening. for the first time in this country's history, king abdullah has given women the right to vote and run for political office . women can't actually go to the polls until 2015 , and the elected council has little power over king abdullah . supporter of women 's rights say this is a significant step.

    >> it is seen as a real commitment in terms of leadership, to ensuring women 's power in the future.

    >> reporter: women in saudi arabia can't leave the house without being fully covered and accompanied by a male guardian, regardless of their age. they aren't even allowed to drive. dozens of saudi activists got behind the wheel last june. one of the organizers now faces a criminal trial. the driving law hasn't changed, but king abdullah seems to have gotten the message.

    >> the arab revolution, plus technological change , and women leaders fighting for their rights has all come together at a unique moment in time.

    >> reporter: the king has raised salaries for government workers, increased unemployment benefits and housing. now that women have a voice, the calls for more change may grow even louder. stephanie gosk, nbc news, london.

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