Saudi expels Canadian envoy, recalls its own over 'interference'
August 06 2018 08:03 PM
Dennis Horak
Dennis Horak

AFP/Riyadh

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

The kingdom gave the envoy Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what it slammed as ‘interference’ in its internal affairs.

Ottawa said it was ‘seriously concerned’ and was seeking ‘greater clarity’ on the shock move, which was announced on Twitter by the Saudi foreign ministry.

‘The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador to Canada for consultation. We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.’

The ministry also announced ‘the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action’.

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.

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

Canada doubled down Monday, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Marie-Pier Baril saying: ‘Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world.’

‘Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy,’ she added.

- 'Unprecedented crackdown' -

Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an ‘unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement’.

Samar's brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail in a case that sparked an international outcry.

The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. Some have since been released.



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