SAUDI ARABIA. Saudi authorities decided Monday to free on bail Manal al-Sharif, who was detained for 10 days for breaking the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on women driving, her lawyer said.
"We were informed today [Monday] of the decision to free Manal on bail. The procedural steps towards her release are under way," Adnan al-Saleh told AFP, adding that he hoped the case would now be closed.
Sharif had called upon King Abdullah to release her, Saleh told AFP on Sunday after meeting his client in prison.
Sharif, a 32-year-old computer-security consultant, was arrested on May 22 after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern Saudi city of Khobar.
The divorced mother of one explained in the video that getting around was often a headache. Women in Saudi Arabia without the means to hire a chauffeur must depend upon the goodwill of male family members to drive them.
The authorities decided on Thursday to extend Sharif's detention to 10 days after her arrest sparked debate about women's rights within the kingdom.
A petition calling for Sharif's release had by Monday garnered 3,345 signatures.
Addressed to King Abdullah, it demanded her release "pending a clear decision on the question of the right of women to drive" in the kingdom.
A Facebook page titled "We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights," on Sunday had over 24,000 supporters.
However, another Facebook page called on men to use "iqals" -- the cords used with traditional headdresses by many Gulf men -- to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in a planned June 17 protest against the kingdom's ban on women taking the wheel.
The organisers of the June 17 demonstration emphasise that no law in Saudi Arabia forbids women from driving and that the ban is based on a religious edict (fatwa) issued in the kingdom whose laws are based on a puritanical version of Islam that prohibits men and un-chaperoned women to mix in public.