x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Jailed Saudi female driver Manal al Sharif appeals to King Abdullah for release

Facebook page backing female drivers gathers 24,000 supporters, while rival page urges men to use their agals to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in a planned protest on June 17 against the kingdom's ban on women taking the wheel.

JEDDAH // A young Saudi woman detained for more than a week for breaking the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on women driving has appealed to King Abdullah for her release, her lawyer said Sunday.

"Manal al Sharif hopes that the king will order her release and close her file," her lawyer, Adnan al Saleh said.

"Her morale is very high, and she is sure of herself," Saleh said, denying reports in various Saudi newspapers that she had collapsed after being detained and expressed regret for breaking the driving ban.

Sharif was arrested on May 21 while driving in the Eastern Province city of Al Khobar, a day after she posted footage on the video-sharing website YouTube showing her behind the wheel.

Although traffic police released her after a few hours, Ms al Sharif, 32-year-old computer security consultant, was later re-apprehended from her home by criminal investigation police, Mr Saleh said, and ordered held for five days.

Saudi authorities on Thursday extended her detention for 10 days, a prison spokesman said.

A Facebook page titled "We are all Manal al Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights," had more than 24,000 supporters on Sunday.

"It is not a revolution, it is not a plot, it is not a gathering and it is not a protest - we are only requesting to drive our cars," one post on the page said.

A petition calling for the release of Ms al Sharif garnered more than 1,000 signatures had by Sunday. The petition, addressed to King Abdullah, demanded the release of Ms al Sharif, "pending a clear decision on the question of the right of women to drive" in the kingdom.

However, another Facebook page called on men to use their agals, the black cords used with traditional keffiyeh headdresses by many Gulf men, to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in a planned protest on June 17 against the kingdom's ban on women taking the wheel.