Saudi Arabia Punishes Canada for Criticizing Human Rights Defenders' Arrests

Toronto's CN Tower and the skyline

Toronto's CN Tower and the skyline

The first seeds of dissension were sown by a tweet from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday which criticised Saudi's detainment of human right activists including Samar Badawi in Riyadh and called for their immediate release.

New trade has been frozen between the two countries, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the 2014 deal that sends light armoured vehicles to Saudi security forces.

Saudi Arabia notably angry with Canada has suspended scholarships for Saudi students in Canadian universities, colleges and other schools and plans to relocate them to other countries.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in worldwide tenders, European traders said.

So far this year, Canada has exported $1.4 billion in merchandise goods to Saudi Arabia and imported $2 billion, according to Statistics Canada data.

Diplomatically, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry responded to Canada's call to free the women's rights activists as "blatant interference in the kingdom's domestic affairs".

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that human rights should be promoted with respect for specific national customs and traditions.

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"We've been pretty clear in our dealings around the world and specifically in Saudi Arabia that we know that it's important that we bring Canadian values around the world".

The bank had received no instructions to sell assets as they do not have any exposure there, the source said.

"Crucifixions" in Saudi Arabia typically involve beheading the condemned, then sewing their head back on and putting their body on public display - hanging them from a pole or a cross, according to Amnesty International.

In an indication that the quarrel may worsen, Jubeir said that the kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada, but did not elaborate.

A diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia shows no sign of abating after Riyadh ordered thousands of Saudi students in Canada to leave the country.

"I will say Canada is very comfortable with our position", she told reporters.

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