Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes new trade with country

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Freeland said in tweet August 2 that she was "very alarmed" to learn of Samar's arrest and that the government would "continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

The kingdom earlier said it had declared Canadian Ambassador Denis Horak persona non grata and given him 24 hours to leave the country, and that it was recalling its ambassador from Ottawa for consultations.

Nevertheless, "Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights", she continued, "including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world". Negative impacts of the Saudi Arabian investment and trade embargo may be overshadowed by Canada's higher inflation and better than expected economic growth. The Saudi Press Agency, the nation's official news outlet, also announced that the country would freeze all new trade and investment deals with Canada. The tweet was later shared on the Canadian Embassy in Saudi Arabia's twitter page, which appears to have further stoked tensions.

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The next day, the main Twitter account for Canada's Foreign Ministry said that "Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi" and called on Saudi authorities to "immediately release them". "It is quite unfortunate to see the phrase "immediate release" in the Canadian statement, which is a reprehensible and unacceptable use of language between sovereign states", the statement added.

Just two months ago, Saudi women were given the right to drive a auto, yet several of the country's most prominent women's rights activists - including some who fought for years to drive - were arrested earlier this year on national security grounds. "Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to global diplomacy".

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been praised for pushing through reforms in recent months, which include lifting the ban on women driving in the kingdom.

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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.

But the 32-year-old has simultaneously pursued a hawkish foreign policy - including leading a blockade of neighbouring Qatar and a bombing campaign against Huthi rebels in Yemen - while cracking down on dissent at home.

"The rupture in Saudi diplomatic relations with Canada underscores how the "new" Saudi Arabia that Mohammed bin Salman is putting together is in absolutely no mood to tolerate any form of criticism of its handling of its domestic affairs", said Kristian Ulrichsen, Middle East fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy in Texas.

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Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen. Bilateral trade between the two nations exceeded $4bn past year and 15,000 Saudi students attend universities and schools in Canada.

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