Saudi expels Canadian envoy, recalls its own over 'interference'

Saudi Arabia freezes all trade investment in Canada - Saudi Press Agency

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then First lady Michelle Obama congratulate Samar Badawi of Saudi Arabia during the State Department's 2012 International Women of Courage Award winners ceremony in Washington March 8, 2012.

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

Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador and frozen all new trade and investment with Ottawa over an escalating dispute centered on jailed human rights activists.

"Using the phrase "immediately release" in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between States", the ministry tweeted.

It dismissed Canada's characterization of the activists as "an incorrect claim" and said Canada's attitude was "surprising".

In an email, Marie-Pier Baril, a spokesperson for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that "Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world" and was seeking "greater clarity" from the Saudi government.

"Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world", she said, adding "Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to global diplomacy".

The Saudi Foreign Ministry also said it would freeze "all new business" between the kingdom and Canada. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contended that those arrested were "lawfully detained", and accused Canada of a "blatant interference in the Kingdom's domestic affairs".




Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

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.

More than a dozen women's rights activists have been targeted since May.

Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger who is now serving a 10-year sentence for expressing dissent online, and is also the ex-wife of Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights lawyer serving 15 years in prison for his activism. Bilateral trade between the two nations exceeded $4bn previous year and 15,000 Saudi students attend universities and schools in Canada.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.

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".

Freeland expressed her alarm at Badawi's arrest on Twitter on Friday, calling for the release of both her and her brother.

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