VOA – ENGLISH, – VOA’s Cindy Saine contributed to this report.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson says Saudi Arabia and Canada are “close partners” and Washington would ask the Saudi government for more information about the arrests of women’s rights activists.
The United States also urged Riyadh to “respect due process” and disclose information about their legal status.
The remarks came Tuesday in response to Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of Canada’s ambassador and the recall of its own ambassador from Ottawa, after Canada criticized the recent arrest of Saudi women’s rights activists.
Saudi Arabia also suspended “all new business” and joint educational exchange programs with Canada.
Saudi Arabia’s actions followed criticism from Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and other diplomats who denounced the conservative kingdom for its recent arrest of women’s rights activists.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic called for the Saudis to explain the allegations against the activists and said that “we are in favor of a dialogue” to resolve the diplomatic dispute.
Among those arrested was Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Raif Badawi, who won Europe’s top human rights prize in 2015, was later sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam while blogging.
Human rights groups and Canadian and other Western diplomats have made repeated calls for the release of Raif Badawi, whose wife received Canadian citizenship in July.