Saudi Arabia has given the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country after the Middle East nation accused Ottawa of interference in its domestic affairs.
In response to Canada’s call for the release of a women’s rights activist, Saudi Arabia also said it would suspend new business and investment ties. It also recalled its envoy to Canada.
On 2 August, Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland called for the “release” of Samar Badawi, the sister of Raif Badawi, a prominent rights campaigner who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018
Samar Badawi and another activist Nassima al Sadah, who had campaigned for women’s right to drive, were arrested last month.
Human Rights Watch has called the arrests “an unrelenting crackdown on the women’s rights movement”.
More than a dozen women’s rights activists have been targeted since May.
Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.
A number of prominent journalists, religious leaders and activists have been arrested despite reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open up society and the economy to international investors as it reduces its reliance on oil.
In a statement, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said: “Throughout its long history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never accepted interference in its domestic affairs.
“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.”
Saudi Arabia is Canada’s biggest trade partner in the Gulf region. Bilateral trade between the two nations exceeded $4bn last year and 15,000 Saudi students attend universities and schools in Canada.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia agreed to buy $13bn in light-armored vehicles, fitted with machine guns and cannons, from the Canadian unit of US defence company General Dynamics.