Saudi Arabia blacklists Canada after minister's tweets

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It also gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and recalled its own ambassador to Canada, the statement by the Saudi foreign ministry said, according to Reuters.

The unusually heated dispute between the two governments was the latest global fallout from Saudi Arabia's domestic crackdown on perceived dissenters, including the arrests of its most prominent women's rights activists.

The Saudi foreign ministry cited remarks last week by Freeland and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, criticizing Saudi Arabia's arrests of women's rights activists including Samar Badawi.

Canada's government has so far made no public comments on Saudi Arabia's diplomatic measures.

Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador and announced a freeze on new trade and investment in response to pressure from the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to release detained civil and human rights activists. Their arrest was the latest in a government crackdown on activists, clerics and journalists.

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"These courageous women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained", Amnesty International's Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement.

"It is quite unfortunate to see the phrase "immediate release" in the Canadian statement, which is a reprehensible and unacceptable use of language between sovereign states", the statement added.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time", Freeland said.

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. Samar Badawi is the sister-in-law of Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

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.

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Saudi Arabia ended in June its long practice of not allowing women to drive automobiles in the Sunni kingdom.

However, supporters of women's rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only King Salman and his powerful son will decide the pace of change.

Saudi's Press Agency said the activists were arrested for seeking to "destabilize the Kingdom", though many remain in detention without charge, Human Rights Watch said.

It isn't immediately clear what new business could be affected between the two countries.

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