Saudi Arabia expelling Canadian ambassador and suspending new trade with Canada

Raif Badawi

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.

In public statements Sunday, Riyadh gave Canadian ambassador Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the country and recalled its own envoy.

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 [Naif bin Bandar Al Sudairi].to Canada for consultation".

Freeland said in a tweet August 2 that she was "very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi's sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia", and that "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".

"Using the phrase (immediately release) in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between States", the Saudi ministry said on Twitter.

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

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

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.

His wife and three children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens last month. 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".

Samar is a vocal campaigner for blogger Raif Badawi, her brother who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam" in a case that sparked an worldwide outcry. "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".

Criticism of the deal angered the Saudis, who said publicly that the contract was meant to be a gift to cement friendship between the two countries and noted Riyadh could easily have awarded it to manufacturers elsewhere in the world.

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