Saudi Arabia expelling Canadian ambassador, freezing trade with Canada

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Riyadh said it would give Canada's ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and that it would also withdraw its envoy to Ottawa.

#Statement | We have been briefed by what the #Canadian foreign minister and the Canadian embassy to the #Kingdom released on what they named "civil society rights activists", and we affirm that this negative and surprising attitude is an incorrect claim.

"The [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] reserves its right to take further action", the country's foreign ministry said in a statement posted in a series of tweets.

The ministry considers the Canadian statements as a blatant interference in the Kingdom's internal affairs that violates simple worldwide norms that governs relations between countries. Saudi Arabia is one of Canada's biggest export markets in the Gulf region and more than 15,000 Saudi students attend Canadian schools and universities.

The dispute appears to be over a tweet on Friday from Global Affairs Canada calling for Saudi Arabia to "immediately release" recently arrested activists and others.

The move follows vigorous calls by Canada for the immediate release of human rights activists swept up in a new wave of detentions.

It said it will not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and considers the Canadian position "an attack" requiring a firm stance to deter who "attempts to undermine the sovereignty" of Saudi Arabia.

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Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Saudi Arabia exceeded $4-billion past year, a significant portion of it from a controversial multibillion-dollar deal to sell combat vehicles equipped with machine guns and cannons to the Saudis.

Ensaf Haidar, the Canadian wife of Raif Badawi, told CBC News on Sunday that she was taken by surprise by the news that Saudi Arabia is taking measures against Canada in retaliation for its support of jailed activists.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi", she wrote on Twitter.

In 2014, the Canadian unit of United States weapons maker General Dynamics won a contract worth as much as $13bn to build light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said at the time was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history.

It says the arrests were made by "the competent authorities" and the detainees were provided with all the rights guaranteed during investigative and trail stages.

An English version of the Saudi government's statement said Ms. Freeland and the Canadian government are wrong to criticize the kingdom.