Citing “interference” in its internal affairs, Saudi Arabia said on Monday it was expelling Canada’s ambassador, recalling its envoy in Ottawa, and freezing its business ties with Ottawa, Agence France-Presse reported.
The move was in response to calls by Canada for the release of human-rights activists arrested in a recent crackdown.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … will not accept interference in its internal affairs or imposed diktats from any country,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted.
“The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador … to Canada for consultation.”
Riyadh said the Canadian ambassador had 24 hours to leave the oil-rich state, and announced the “freezing of all new commercial and investment transactions” with the country.
The Canadian Embassy in Riyadh had said it was “gravely concerned” about a new wave of detentions of human-rights campaigners in the kingdom, including Samar Badawi, an award-winning gender-rights activist.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” the embassy tweeted on Friday.
Badawi was arrested along with fellow activist Nassima al-Sadah last week. Human Rights Watch said they were “the latest victims of an unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement.”
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said, “It is very unfortunate that the words ‘immediate release’ appeared in the Canadian statement … it is unacceptable in relations between countries.”