Bernie Sanders: Saudi Arabia’s Response To Canada’s ‘legitimate criticism’ is ‘Outrageous’

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on the spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada Monday, calling Riyadh’s decisions to expel the Canadian ambassador and to freeze new trade and investment an “outrageous move.”

Sanders defended a call from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland urging Saudi authorities to release recently jailed women’s rights activists, including Samar Badawi. The Vermont senator said it’s fair for democratic governments to express concerns about human rights issues and called on the U.S. to follow Canada’s example.

Badawi is the sister of blogger Raif Badawi, a prolific activist who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, and 1,000 lashes, for insulting Islam. Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar recently became a Canadian citizen, along with their three children.

But Sanders’ words seemed to have gone unnoticed in Washington.

An U.S. State department official told HuffPost on Tuesday that the government is aware of the dispute, and are choosing to play an observer role in the sudden tension the two countries.

“Canada and Saudi Arabia are both close allies of the United States. I refer you to the Canadian and Saudi Ministries of Foreign Affairs for further information,” the official wrote in an email.

Riyadh announced on Monday that Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak would be given 24 hours to leave the kingdom following two tweets from Canada’s foreign ministry last week.

n a statement on Monday, Freeland said the Canadian government is “deeply concerned” about Horak’s expulsion.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world. We will never hesitate to promote these values and we believe that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”

The Canadian embassy in Riyadh will continue regular operations.

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