'Disobedient' Saudi woman freed

2010-10-26 10:49

Jeddah - A Saudi woman jailed for disobeying her father has been freed after more than six months in prison, Saudi media reported on Tuesday.

Samar Badawi, who was thrown in prison without formal charge or trial by a Jeddah judge, was released on Monday on the order of the governor of the Mecca region, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the reports said.

Badawi's release came after a concerted campaign by human rights activists inside and outside Saudi Arabia for King Abdullah to intervene in the case, which they said was an example of the abuses of the country's rigid guardian system for women.

Under the system, a Saudi woman must have the permission of her official "mahram" or male guardian - her father, husband, brother or son - for matters such as travel, work and marriage.

Badawi, a 32-year-old divorced mother, had filed her own case asking the court to remove her father as her guardian, saying he had mistreated her since childhood and had denied her permission to remarry.

Badawi had fled her father and lived in a shelter for women. The judge instead accused her of being disobedient to her father and sent her to prison on April 4.

Governed according to a strict version of Islamic sharia law, Saudi Arabia's judges are all Muslim clerics who have broad powers to set charges and punishments according to their own interpretations of Qur'anic law and tradition.

Prince Khaled, a powerful member of the Saudi ruling family, recommended Badawi be released and proposed her case be sent to a reconciliation committee, according to Arab News.

Badawi was released into the oversight of a new official guardian, her uncle, according to the reports.