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Canada responds to report that Saudi Arabia may behead female activist

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  • Canada responded to news that Saudi
    Arabia is
    on the cusp of executing a female rights activist
    for the
    first time.
  • Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia
    Freeland kicked off a diplomatic feud earlier this month
    with
    a single tweet
     calling out Saudi Arabia’s human rights
    record. 
  • Freeland’s office issued a familiar statement on
    Tuesday, though it steered away from calling on Saudi Arabia to
    “immediately release” activists on death row. 
  • The dispute between the nations has escalated in recent
    weeks, and Canada is refusing to back down. 

Canada responded to news that Saudi Arabia is planning to behead
a female activist currently behind bars, in a further escalation
of an
already-tense diplomatic spat
between the two
countries. 

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland
sparked major controversy earlier this month with
a single tweet
 calling out Saudi Arabia for its
detention of a prominent activists. The dispute soon escalated —

you can read a complete timeline here
.

The latest development came in a new statement from Canada,
repeating its condemnation of how Saudi Arabia treats prisoners
in light of
reports by Business Insider and other outlets
that political
activist Israa al-Ghomgham has been sentenced to death.

“As Minister Freeland has previously stated, Canada is
extremely concerned by the arrests of women’s rights activists,”
a foreign affairs spokesman said in a statement, according to
the Globe
and Mail

“These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government.
Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights,
including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the
world.” 

Two human-rights groups told Business Insider on Tuesday
that Saudi Arabia is about to execute al-Ghomgham, who would
be the first woman killed in Saudi Arabia solely for her activism
(others have been given the death penalty for different
offenses).

al-Ghomgham, 29, was arrested along with her husband in
2015 for supporting peaceful protests against the government,
rights groups have said, and she now faces the death
penalty.

Saudi authorities have held five activists facing the death
penalty in pretrial detention without legal representation for
over two years,
Human Rights Watch
said. Their next court date is scheduled
for October 28, 2018.

In a statement, Freeland expressed dismay over Saudi
Arabia’s continued aggression towards protesters.

The statement did not call specifically
for al-Ghomgham’s immediate release, unlike in earlier
statements where Canada named prisoners it wants freed. Saudi
Arabia called the earlier statements “reprehensible
and unacceptable use of language
“.

And what started with a single tweet has now escalated into a
full-blown diplomatic feud. Saudi Arabia has expelled
the Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment,
cancelled 
all
flights to Toronto,
 pulled thousands
of students from Canadian institutions
, barred its
citizens from 
getting
medical treatment in Canadian hospitals
, and
reportedly 
sold
off Canadian assets

Canada in turn,
has refused to back down
, and both countries seem to be
weighing their next moves and remain at an impasse. 

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