Ottawa had called for release of jailed civil rights activists Raif and Samar 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.
It also gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and recalled its own ambassador to Canada, the statement by the Saudi foreign ministry said. Saudi Arabia is one of Canada’s largest export markets in the region.
“The [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] reserves its right to take further action,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted in a series of tweets.
“Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs.”
The Saudi ministry had been briefed that the Canadian foreign ministry and the Canadian embassy urged the Saudi authorities to “immediately release” the civil rights activists, the statement said.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “very alarmed” by the news of Samar Badawi’s arrest, the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi. Freeland called on Saudi Arabia to release both.
Samar Badawi is a prominent women’s rights advocate, and her brother Raif has been in a Saudi jail since 2012 for his criticism of the regime and was lashed 50 times in 2015.
Ensaf Haidar, the Canadian wife of Raif Badawi, told CBC News on Sunday that she was taken by surprise by the news that Saudi Arabia is taking measures against Canada in retaliation for its support of jailed activists.
Haidar said she will continue to fight for her husband.