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

06 August, 2018, 10:42 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes trade in human rights row

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.

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

The ministry said it rejected Canada's characterization of events in Saudi Arabia, and said it wouldn't stand for outside intervention.

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. 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".

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"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.

Freeland said on social media last Thursday that she was "alarmed" to hear of Samar Badawi's arrest. More than a dozen women's rights activists have been targeted since May. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $3 billion in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

The move follows vigorous calls by Canada for the immediate release of activists that have been detained.

Most of those arrested campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the country's male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

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"The rupture in Saudi diplomatic relations with Canada reinforces how the "new" Saudi Arabia that Mohammed bin Salman is putting together is in no mood to tolerate any form of criticism of its handling of domestic affairs", said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute in the United States.

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. Samar Badawi is the sister-in-law of Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

An English version of the Saudi government's statement said Ms. Freeland and the Canadian government are wrong to criticize the kingdom.

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