Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador for urging release of activists

Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador for urging release of activists

Riyadh is also freezing all new trade and investment deals with Canada.

"The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is in contravention of the most basic worldwide norms and all the charters governing relations between States", the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.

Jackie Hansen, a gender rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said last Thursday that the circumstances of the arrests were still unclear and there was no news of any charges. Saudi Arabia says it is ordering Canada's ambassador to leave the country and freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada in a spat over human rights.

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.

The dispute appears centered around tweets by Canadian diplomats calling on the kingdom to "immediately release" women's rights activists recently detained by the kingdom.

"It's pathetic that rather than respect the basic rights of its citizens and end its wide scale persecution of independent voices, it's punishing even friendly states who give it helpful advice", Whitson told DW.

The Saudi foreign ministry slammed the Canadian statement, signalling its growing irritation over Western criticism of the kingdom's poor human rights record.

"These fearless women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained", Amnesty International's Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement.

In 2014, the Canadian unit of USA weapons maker General Dynamics won a contract worth as much as $13bn to build light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said at the time was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history.

Saudi Arabia is one of Canada's biggest export markets in the Gulf region and more than 15,000 Saudi students attend Canadian schools and universities.

Mr. Allam said the Saudi-Canadian relationship has been strained in recent years because of a public debate over whether to sell billions of dollars of armoured vehicles to Riyadh and the kingdom's continued imprisonment of Mr. Badawi, whose wife and children now live in Canada. The Canadian position has been deemed "an attack" and an "attempt to interfere with our internal affairs", requiring a firm stance to deter "attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA".

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