Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes business

Chrystia Freeland

Saudi Arabia has ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the country and suspended new trade and investment with Ottawa after Canada's foreign ministry urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists. Riyadh is also freezing all new trade and investment deals with Canada.

"We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours".

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.

"The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador.to Canada for consultation".

Citing "interference" in its internal affairs, Saudi Arabia said on Monday it was expelling Canada's ambassador, recalling its envoy in Ottawa, and freezing its business ties with Ottawa, AFP reported.

Last week, the Canadian Department of Global Affairs pressed for Saudi authorities to "immediately release" the two activists, with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland saying she was "very alarmed" by their detention in a post on Twitter.

The move comes after Canada said it was "gravely concerned" about the arrest of several human rights activists.

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Just two months ago, Saudi women were given the right to drive a auto, yet several of the country's most prominent women's rights activists - including some who fought for years to drive - were arrested earlier this year on national security grounds.

Saudi Arabia took this firm stance following Canada's statement about "civil society activists" that was negative and baseless.

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

"The kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty", according to the statement. Samar Badawi is the sister-in-law of Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

Al-Saadah was among the first women to run for office in Saudi Arabia in 2015 as part of a campaign for women's political rights.

"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.

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