Saudi Arabia freezes new trade with Canada, expels envoy over 'interference'

Raif Badawi

Freeland called for Badawi's "immediate" release and said Canada would continue to advocate for the release of both siblings.

Saudi Arabia has also chose to freeze all new trade and investment deals between the Kingdom and Canada while retaining its right to take other measures, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Twitter she was "very alarmed" by the arrest of civil rights activist Samar Badawi, Raif's sister.

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

"The [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] reserves its right to take further action", the country's foreign ministry said in a statement posted in a series of tweets.

"The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia", the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted.

"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.

Riyadh said Canada's statement about "civil society activists" was negative and unfair to the truth. Throughout its long history, Saudi Arabia has not accepted and will not accept interference in its internal affairs or impose dictates on it from any country.

The Saudi foreign ministry slammed the Canadian statement, signalling its growing irritation over Western criticism of the kingdom's poor human rights record. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $3 billion in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

The UN has also voiced concern over the widening clampdown on opposition in Saudi Arabia, its human rights office (OHCHR) calling the spate of arrests that has been ongoing since spring "apparently arbitrary detentions".

Badawi was arrested along with fellow activist Nassima al-Sadah last week. She is a Canadian citizen whose brother Raif Badawi, a blogger who was critical of the Saudi government, was already in jail in the kingdom. "The persons referred to were lawfully detained by the public prosecution for committing crimes punishable by applicable law, which also guaranteed the detainees' rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial".

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