Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Saudi Arabia freezes new trade with Canada for urging activists' release

Raif Badawi Campaigners demonstrated in support of Raif Badawi in Paris in 2015
Leonard Rios | 06 August, 2018, 10:46

Saudi Arabia will suspend new trade and investment with Canada after that country's foreign ministry urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists, it said in a statement released to the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday. Riyadh is also freezing all new trade and investment deals with Canada.

In a series of tweets, the Saudi foreign ministry said it was expelling the USA ambassador and recalling its own envoy in Canada.

The Saudi foreign ministry said, "It is very unfortunate that the words "immediate release" appeared in the Canadian statement... it is unacceptable in relations between countries".

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

"It's pathetic that rather than respect the basic rights of its citizens and end its wide scale persecution of independent voices, it's punishing even friendly states who give it helpful advice", Whitson told DW.

"Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi". The Canadian government did not immediately comment Sunday night in response to the Saudi action.

Just two months ago, Saudi women were given the right to drive a vehicle, yet several of the country's most prominent women's rights activists - including some who fought for years to drive - were arrested earlier this year on national security grounds.

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Freeland said on social media last Thursday that she was "alarmed" to hear of Samar Badawi's arrest.

"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.

"Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian Domestic affairs", the statement reads. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

The Trudeau government has taken a lot of criticism for issuing export permits for a deal to sell billions of dollars of weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country that ranks among the "worst of the worst" on human rights by US watchdog Freedom House.

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.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman. "The legitimate rights (of those arrested) have not been denied and they were provided with all guarantees during the investigation and trial stages", the statement said.

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