Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Saudi Arabia expels Canadian envoy after criticism of activist arrests

Saudi Arabia expels Canadian envoy after criticism of activist arrests

Saudi Arabia suspended new trade and investment with Canada after that country's foreign ministry urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists, it said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday.

The website also says Canada was "seeking to diversify its relations with the Saudi Kingdom" in 2016, as the two countries' bilateral relations are based on a shared interest of peace and security, including energy security, humanitarian affairs and counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia said it considers the Canadian ambassador in Saudi Arabia as persona non grata and gave him a 24-hour notice to leave the kingdom.

The Canadian embassy in Riyadh had said it was "gravely concerned" about a new wave of detentions of human-rights campaigners in the kingdom, including Samar Badawi, an award-winning gender rights activist. Freeland called on Saudi Arabia to release both.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned Canada's calls for the release of detained activists as "blatant interference in the Kingdom's domestic affairs".

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists", tweeted the Canadian embassy.

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

Those rounded up in recent days include Samar Badawi, who is known for having challenged the kingdom's male guardianship rules and is the sister of one of Saudi Arabia's most prominent detainees, liberal blogger Raif Badawi. Throughout its long history, Saudi Arabia has not accepted and will not accept interference in its internal affairs or impose dictates on it from any country.

"The Canadian position is an attack on Saudi Arabia that requires a firm stance towards it".

"Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian Domestic affairs", the statement reads.

"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", she wrote on Twitter.

Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

The Trudeau government has taken a lot of criticism for issuing export permits for a deal to sell billions of dollars of weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country that ranks among the "worst of the worst" on human rights by USA watchdog Freedom House.

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