Aug. 6 (UPI) — The Saudi Arabian government cut diplomatic ties with Canada on Sunday after the North American country urged the kingdom to release recently arrested human rights activists.
As part of the retaliatory measures, Saudi officials expelled the Canadian ambassador in Riyadh, recalled its own ambassador from Ottawa and “put on hold” all new business and investment transactions.
“Throughout its long history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never accepted any interference in its domestic affairs by, or orders from any country,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The actions were taken after Canada’s foreign policy department said on Friday that it was “gravely concerned” about the arrests of human rights activists, including Samar Badawi, a prominent women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia, who was arrested on July 30.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” Canada’s statement said.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said Canada’s comments were false and considered them a “blatant interference” in its domestic affairs.
“It is a major, unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process, as well as a violation of the kingdom’s sovereignty,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi government has engaged in a crackdown on human rights activists since May 15, resulting in the arrests of more than 12 people.
At least six women’s rights activists are being held without charge, the organization said.