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The latest Saudi-Canadian diplomatic flare-up! Human rights are at stake
In May 2014, a Saudi court had convicted Raif Badawi of insulting Islam for criticizing Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. In January 2015, he received 50 lashes before a crowd of hundreds in Jeddah. Further floggings were suspended, though he remains imprisoned.

Badawi's case became an international call to arms for human rights groups, Western nations and others concerned about free speech. The U.S. State Department and the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights had called on the kingdom to rescind the sentence. Raif Badawi's wife and three children later moved to Canada, and she became a Canadian citizen this year.

It's now August 2018 and the Saudi Arabia on this Monday declared Canada's ambassador persona non grata, and gave him 24 hours to leave the country.. The decision to expel the Canadian ambassador, Dennis Horak, came after Canada's Foreign Ministry criticized Saudi Arabia for arresting human-rights activist Samar Badawi, the sister of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. The Saudi Arabia's action prompted last week when Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland used her Twitter account to highlight on the legal cases of some Saudi citizens. That very public statement did not comport with standard diplomatic practice, much of which is often done quietly behind the scenes. Samar Badawi is a famed women's right activist who has been arrested previously by authorities. She was honoured by the U.S. State Department in 2012 with an International Women in Courage Award.

It was followed by even more strongly worded statements issued by the Foreign Ministry and the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, calling on the Saudi government to "immediately release" these individuals. 

On 10th Jan 2015, I'd written an article in Merinews with a caption 'Saudi blogger Raif Badawi: Freedom of expression with a 'Price Tag'

Here are some excerpts of that:

'Freedom of Expression' is tagged with a heavy price and in many countries it is really real exorbitant. It is not uncommon also to learn that many of the upholders of LIBERTY OF THOUGHT'S EXPRESSION had paid the price with their lives. It was hard to express the ideas, contrary to that of State, in Communist countries and it is almost impossible if you're a denizen of an Arab state.

The latest victim of the autocracy is a Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, a resident of Al Khobar, Eastern Province who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He is accused of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jeddah criminal court to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals. He was publicly flogged yesterday for the first time after Friday prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. Badawi is to receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Human Rights groups and activists claimed that his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom.

His lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was also dragged in the net and sentenced in to 15 years imprisonment and barred from travelling for another 15 years. He is accused and found guilty by an anti-terrorism court of "undermining the regime and officials", "inciting public opinion" and "insulting the judiciary"……..End of the excerpts.

Saudi Arabia declared that as an unacceptable attempt by Canada to interfere in its domestic affairs, the Saudi Arabia "will put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada."

The Middle East observers could recall that Saudi Arabia has been always sensitive to international pressure. In 2015, the kingdom had recalled its ambassador to Sweden and stopped issuing work visas for Swedes after the Scandinavian country's foreign minister described the Badawi court decision as "medieval" and the kingdom's ruling Al Saud family as presiding over a "dictatorship."

The Saudi government has now recalled its ambassador to Ottawa for consultations. In line with a royal directive, the Saudi Education Ministry said it is suspending scholarship programs in Canada, and transferring the estimated 7,000 Saudi students and trainees to other countries. Saudia airlines, the national carrier, announced it would suspend flights to Canada from Aug. 13.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday the government was "deeply concerned" by Saudi Arabia's move to expel Canada's ambassador on the basis of statements "in defence of human-rights activists detained in the kingdom."

At a press conference in Vancouver, she said officials were waiting to hear from Saudi Arabia about how the relationship between Canada and the kingdom unfolds given this diplomatic row.

"We stand by what we have said," she said. "We will always speak up for human rights and women's rights."

Thumps Up! There're few countries in the world who do still practice Moral Politics.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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