Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes new trade with Canada after foreign minister calls for release of Saudi civil rights activists #freeraif
The decision was reported by Saudi Arabia’s official Saudi Press Agency. It is understood to be in response to Canada’s statement of concern over the arrests of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement issued by the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry, Riyadh dismissed as “totally false” allegations by the Canadian authorities that recent arrests of several civil society activists were unwarranted.
The ministry denounced Canada’s stance as “explicit interference in the internal affairs” of the kingdom, which runs “contrary to the most basic international norms and charters that govern relations between countries.”
Besides putting on hold “all new trade and investment transactions with Canada,” the ministry said that the ultra-conservative kingdom, which has drawn stark criticism from human rights groups for its crackdown on dissent, “retains the right to take further action.”
Friday, Canada called on Riyadh to “immediately release” civil and human rights activists recently arrested by the Saudi Arabian authorities, including Samar Badawi, an internationally recognized human rights defender. Badawi and another high-profile Saudi women’s rights activist, Nassima al-Sadah, were arrested in the kingdom last week, sparking international outcry.
In 2012, Badawi received an international Women of Courage award in a ceremony in Washington from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-First Lady Michelle Obama.