Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes trade in human rights row

Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes trade in human rights row

Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador and frozen new trade deals with this country in a growing dispute over the Canadian government's criticism of human-rights violations in the Islamic kingdom.

A statement released by the Saudi Press Agency said the foreign ministry gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and recalled its own ambassador to Canada, adding it retained "its rights to take further action".

The ministry denounces Canada's stance as "explicit interference in the internal affairs" of the kingdom that runs "contrary to the most basic worldwide norms and charters that govern relations between countries". "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists", Global Affairs Canada said on its Twitter feed.

The statement came after the Canadian foreign ministry and the Canadian embassy urged the Saudi authorities to "immediately release" civil rights activists.

And it says any other attempt to "interfere with our internal affairs" by Canada will mean Saudi Arabia will be allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs.

Riyadh also suspended new trade and investment with Canada.

Badawi was arrested along with fellow activist Nassima al-Sadah last week.

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Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve said what has happened is a "clear indication that Saudi Arabia remains determined to rebuff and ignore any efforts to improve and address human rights concerns in the country".

The human rights group's Middle East research director described the arrests as part of a larger crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia. "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

The Canadian embassy in Riyadh had said it was "gravely concerned" over the wave of arrests of rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed dissident blogger Raif Badawi.

Badawi's brother was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics.

Canada's government has so far made no public comments on Saudi Arabia's diplomatic measures.

His wife and three children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens last month.

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