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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.

Saudi Arabia has declared the ambassador of Canada persona non grata and ordered him to leave in 24 hours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

The Saudi ministry had been briefed that the Canadian foreign ministry and the Canadian embassy urged the Saudi authorities to "immediately release" the civil rights activists, the statement said.

The Saudi foreign ministry called the use of "immediately release" in Canada's tweet "unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states".

Riyadh also released a statement on the official Saudi Press Agency in which it confirmed its commitment to not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and in return rejected any intervention by them.

The move comes after Canada said it was "gravely concerned" about the arrest of several human rights activists.

Riyadh said Canada's statement about "civil society activists" was negative and unfair to the truth.

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"Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs", the statement said.

The human rights group's Middle East research director described the arrests as part of a larger crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an "unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement".

"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.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother. The Canadian position is an attack on Saudi Arabia that requires a firm stance towards it.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.


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