SAUDI ARABIA has expelled the Canadian Ambassador and recalled its Ambassador after Canada’s Foreign Office issued a statement of concern over the detainment of civil society and women’s rights activists.
The statement, published by Canada’s Foreign Office, stated: “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”
The Middle Eastern nation has also frozen all new trade and investment sanctions with Canada, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The Canadian Ambassador was also declared persona non grata, and issued 24 hours to leave the country.
The leading women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, was detained by Saudi police last week, according to Amnesty International.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland commented on Ms Badawi’s arrest, stating: “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.”
Mr Badawi was arrested in 2012 for criticism of the regime, and was subjected to 50 lashings in 2015.
His wife, Ensaf Haidar, and three children were granted Canadian citizenship earlier this summer, and live in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
Amnesty International noted Ms Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by Saudi security forces for her human rights activist.
She was also subjected to a travel ban in 2014 and arrested in 2016.
Nassima al-Sada, a campaigner for civil and political rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the Shi’a minority in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, has also been arrested.
She has campaigned for the rights for women to drive, and the end of the archaic male guardianship system.
She stood in municipal elections in 2015, but was later banned from participating.
Amnesty International said both Ms Badawi and Ms al-Sada “are once again being persecuted for their previous human rights work, and, if so, they should be immediately and unconditionally released”.
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, raised her concerns surrounding the ongoing human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
She said: “This unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is a disturbing sign that the crackdown is far from over.
“These brave women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained.
“Saudi Arabia’s new leadership under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has crushed any space for the existence of human rights defenders in the country.
“Despite the Saudi authorities’ repeated attempts to project the image of a country implementing sweeping reforms to ‘modernise’ the kingdom, the grim reality is of continuing arrests of activists for their peaceful human rights work.
“The international community must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end this draconian crackdown and targeted repression of human rights activists in the country.
“States such as the USA, UK or France, which can use their leverage with Saudi Arabia, have remained silent for far too long. Their silence is deafening.”