A street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia orders Canadian envoy to leave, freezes trade with Canada


DUBAI – Saudi Arabia on Monday ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the kingdom within 24 hours after Canada criticised the recent arrest of women’s rights activists.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry also said it would freeze “all new business” between the kingdom and Canada, which imports crude from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s moves were in reaction to Canada’s “blatant and unacceptable interference” in the country’s domestic affairs, the Saudi Foreign Ministry explained.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been made aware of the statement by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in the Kingdom on the so-called civil society activists who have been detained and that urged the Saudi authorities to release them immediately,” the ministry said in the statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The ministry stressed that “the negative and surprising statement by Canada lacked credibility and was not based on genuine information or facts.”

The ministry explained that the individuals were “lawfully detained by the Public Prosecution for committing crimes punishable by law as per the legal procedures that also guaranteed the detainees’ rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial”.

Saudi Arabia said it would recall its ambassador to Canada as well.

A spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada was “seriously concerned” by Saudi Arabia’s actions.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world,” Marie-Pier Baril said in a statement.

“Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy,” she said.

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.

Among those recently arrested is Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

Saudi Arabia said it will “never tolerate, any interference in its domestic affairs or any dictation from any country”.

“The Kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the Kingdom that requires a firm stance to prevent anyone from attempting to undermine the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia,” the ministry said. GAD/Expat Media


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