Saudi expels Canadian envoy over "interference"

Saudi Arabia

Samar Badawi received the 2012 International Women of Courage Award from Hillary Clinton in the US

Saudi Arabia has asked Canada's ambassador to leave the country within 24 hours, just two days after Canada criticized the arrest of women's rights and human rights activists in the Arab kingdom.

"The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is in contravention of the most basic global norms and all the charters governing relations between States", the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia said Monday it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest at Ottawa's vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists", the foreign ministry tweeted on Friday.

"The Ministry also affirmed that the Canadian position is an explicit and transparent interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", the ministry said.

Al-Saadah was among the first women to run for office in Saudi Arabia in 2015 as part of a campaign for women's political rights.

Ms. Badawi is one of at least 18 civil-rights activists arrested since May, four of whom have been temporarily released, activists say.

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Canadian foreign ministry officials were not available for an immediate comment on Sunday.

Canada last week said it was "gravely concerned" over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.

Ms. Freeland said via Twitter last Thursday that she was "very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi's sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia".

Badawi and another high-profile Saudi women's rights activist, Nassima al-Sadah, were arrested in the kingdom last week, sparking 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", Freeland tweeted.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.

In 2014, the Canadian unit of U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics won a contract worth as much as $13bn to build light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said at the time was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history. They called on Saudi authorities to "immediately release" the detainees.

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