Saudi Arabia asks Canadian ambassador to leave

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Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador and frozen new trade deals with this country in a growing dispute over the Canadian government's criticism of human-rights violations in the Islamic kingdom.

"The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is in contravention of the most basic worldwide norms and all the charters governing relations between States", the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contended that those arrested were "lawfully detained", and accused Canada of a "blatant interference in the Kingdom's domestic affairs".

Stating that it considers "the Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia as Persona-Non-Grata".

"Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi", Global Affairs Canada, the department that manages the country's diplomatic and consular relations, tweeted on Friday.

The Canadian Embassy had earlier tweeted and urged the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.

Ms. Badawi is one of at least 18 civil-rights activists arrested since May, four of whom have been temporarily released, activists say.

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"Using the phrase 'immediately release" in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states, ' the ministry tweeted.

The stand-off pits a Saudi government that's slowly opening the door to women's rights against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, an outspoken champion of women's advancement, who named a gender-balanced cabinet shortly after his 2015 election. Negative impacts of the Saudi Arabian investment and trade embargo may be overshadowed by Canada's higher inflation and better than expected economic growth.

Nearly immediately after the news, Saudi Twitter accounts began tweeting similarly phrased messages of their "concern" for Canada's own treatment of First Nation members and the need for Quebec to gain independence. It must be noted that Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar lives in Canada itself and recently acquired the Canadian citizenship.

"We are seriously concerned by these media reports and are seeking greater clarity on the recent statement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", said Marie-Pier Baril.

Criticism of the deal angered the Saudis, who said publicly that the contract was meant to be a gift to cement friendship between the two countries and noted Riyadh could easily have awarded it to manufacturers elsewhere in the world.

Tanks, armored vehicles and parts and motor vehicles accounted for about 45 percent of Canada's 2016 exports to the kingdom, while crude oil and copper ores comprised about 98 percent of imports, according to a government report.