Canada defiant after Saudi Arabia freezes new trade over human rights call

Reuters Studio - August 7, 2018

Canada has refused to back down in its defense of human rights after Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment and expelled the Canadian ambassador in retaliation for Ottawa's call to free arrested Saudi civil society activists.

Emily Wither reports.

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Canada defiant after Saudi Arabia freezes new trade over human rights call

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CHRYSTIA FREELAND, SAYING: "We will always speak up for human rights." Canada is refusing to back down after a spat with Saudi Arabia over human rights.

The kingdom froze new trade and expelled the Canadian ambassador after Ottawa's call to free arrested Saudi civil society activists.

The U.S. also weighing in.

A State Department official saying they'd ask Riyadh for details on the detentions.

Saudi Arabia's state airline saying it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.

And the kingdom adding educational exchange programmes with Canada would also be suspended, with plans to move Saudi scholarship recipients to other countries.

A shame, says the Canadian Foreign Minister: (SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CHRYSTIA FREELAND, SAYING: "We have been glad for many years to welcome Saudi students here.

And they are very much welcome -- Saudi students who have been accepted to Canada -- are very much welcome to arrive in Canada as planned and study here." In a statement the Canadian foreign office singled out Samar Badawi, who was arrested a week ago.

The women's rights campaigner won the International Women of Courage Award in 2012.

Her detention is part of a wider crackdown on activists in recent months.

The Saudi foreign minister saying the calls to free arrested activists are based on "misleading" information.

This sharp response to criticism shows the limits of change in the conservative country.

Young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman may have launched a campaign of social and economic reform.

But the absolute monarch's total ban on political activism remains.

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