Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes business deals

World Today

Saudi Arabia is reacting to Canada’s criticism of the treatment of jailed Saudi activists, putting a hold on all new trade with Canada, expelling the country’s ambassador, and recalling the Saudi envoy to Ottawa. Riyadh also said it plans to pull thousands of government scholarships for Saudi students in Canada, and transfer students to other countries.

CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.

The response comes after the Kingdom arrested women’s rights activists, saying it acted legally under Saudi law. One of them -Samar Badawi – is sister-in-law to Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada. Haidar’s husband, a blogger named Raif Badawi, was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam.

On Twitter last week, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said the Canadian government is trying to get clarity on Riyadh’s reaction, but said that “Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights.”

Saudi authorities said the arrests were legal and called Canada’s criticism an interference in Saudi Arabia’s domestic affairs.

“The Kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the Kingdom, that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty,” according to a statement read on the Al Ekhbariya TV channel.