Saudi Arabia expels Canada’s ambassador, freezes all trade with Ottawa

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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.

Earlier, the Canadian foreign ministry and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh expressed concerns over the arrests of human rights activists, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi, in a new wave of detentions. Freeland called for Badawi's "immediate" release and said Canada would continue to advocate for the release of both siblings.

The Saudi foreign ministry cited remarks last week by Freeland and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, criticizing Saudi Arabia's arrests of women's rights activists including Samar Badawi.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists", Global Affairs Canada said on its Twitter feed.


However, supporters of women's rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

So far this year, Canada has exported C$1.4 billion ($1.1 billion) in merchandise goods to Saudi Arabia and imported C$2 billion in imports, leaving it with a cumulative year-to-date trade deficit with the kingdom of about C$640 million, according to Statistics Canada data.

The Saudi foreign ministry voiced anger over the Canadian statement.

The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state.


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

It said it will not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and considers the Canadian position "an attack" requiring a firm stance to deter "attempts to undermine the sovereignty" of 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", she wrote on Twitter.

"The persons referred to were lawfully detained by the Public Prosecution for committing crimes punishable by applicable law, which also guaranteed the detainees' rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial", the statement said.


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