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Saudi woman who drove car released

Associated Press / May 31, 2011

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Saudi woman detained for defying the ultraconservative kingdom’s ban on female drivers was released yesterday after growing international pressure for her freedom, a rights activist said.

Manal al-Sherif, 32, became the center of a growing Internet campaign that also drew attention to plans for a June 17 rally calling for a mass driving protest to challenge the restriction.

Waleed Aboul Khair, the Saudi activist, credited Sherif’s release on “pressure from inside and outside’’ Saudi Arabia, which follows an austere brand of Islam known as Wahhabism that is enforced by morality police.

Sherif had been detained since May 21 after posting an Internet video of her driving as part of a campaign for the planned protest next month. She was ordered to remain in custody until at least early June.

The reason for the early release was not announced by authorities, but Aboul Khair said Sherif signed an agreement not to attempt to drive again or speak to reporters.

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