Saudi Arabia freezes Canada trade ties, recalls envoy

Raif Badawi

Saudi Arabia will suspend new trade and investment with Ottawa after Canada'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.

Jackie Hansen, a gender rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said last Thursday that the circumstances of the arrests were still unclear and there was no news of any charges.

The ministry said it rejected Canada's characterization of events in Saudi Arabia, and said it wouldn't stand for outside intervention.

In its statement on Sunday, the Saudi foreign ministry suggested that the Canadian foreign ministry's demand was tantamount to interference in Riyadh's affairs and warned that any further action would be seen as a license to meddle in Canadian affairs.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists", the 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.

Saudi authorities last week arrested two prominent women rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Saadah, and held them incommunicado, Saudi human rights groups said.

Representatives for Canada's foreign department didn't respond to a request for comment.

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Badawi and another high-profile Saudi women's rights activist, Nassima al-Sadah, were arrested in the kingdom last week, sparking an global outcry.

Saudi Arabia has frozen all trade/investment developments with Canada.

Riyadh said Canada's statement about "civil society activists" was negative and unfair to the truth.

It said it will not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and considers the Canadian position "an attack" requiring a firm stance to deter "attempts to undermine the sovereignty" of Saudi Arabia.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi", she wrote on Twitter.

The arrests were in line with Saudi laws, and those detained have been provided with due process during investigation and trial, according to the foreign ministry statement.

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