Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador over 'interference'

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Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada was "seriously concerned" by Saudi Arabia's actions.

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

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

The Ministry in a statement said, "The Ministry also affirmed that the Canadian position is an explicit and transparent interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

Last week, authorities in Saudi Arabia detained two women's rights activists, broadening a campaign of arrests that has drawn global criticism and tainted the kingdom's top-down agenda of change.

"It's pathetic that rather than respect the basic rights of its citizens and end its wide scale persecution of independent voices, it's punishing even friendly states who give it helpful advice", Whitson told DW.

Samar is the sister of Raif Badawi, a prominent human rights campaigner sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 on charges of insulting Islam.

Both campaigned for women's right to drive, which was granted by the Saudi government when it ended a decades-old ban in June, as well as the abolishment of the male guardianship system.

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". "Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to worldwide diplomacy".

"An informed diplomatic source said Sunday that Saudi Arabia had agreed to grant a visa to the head. of Iran's interests section", reported the state-owned IRNA Iranian news agency adding that "Observers saw a positive diplomatic step in Tehran-Riyadh relations".

So far this year, Canada has exported C$1.4 billion ($1.1 billion) in merchandise goods to Saudi Arabia and imported C$2 billion in imports, leaving it with a cumulative year-to-date trade deficit with the kingdom of about C$640 million, according to Statistics Canada data.

Just two months ago, Saudi women were given the right to drive a vehicle, yet several of the country's most prominent women's rights activists - including some who fought for years to drive - were arrested earlier this year on national security grounds. Saudi Arabia has invested about $6 billion in Canadian businesses since 2006, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It must be noted that Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar lives in Canada itself and recently acquired the Canadian citizenship.

The United Nations has expressed concern over the Kingdom's wave of "arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders", and estimates that at least 15 Saudi activists have been arrested since May 15.

A Saudi official confirmed reports that the Kingdom has agreed to admit an Iranian diplomat to head an office representing Iranian interests in Riyadh. At jeopardy, are the tens of thousands of Saudi students in Canada'.