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First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pose with Samar Badawi of Saudi Arabia as she receives the 2012 International Women of Courage Award. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has frozen all new trade and investments with Canada and is expelling its ambassador in retaliation for a tweet by the Canadian Foreign Ministry, which called for Saudi authorities to release imprisoned human rights activists, reports BBC News.

The big picture: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has garnered praise for his efforts to modernize the Saudi kingdom, but the reforms have come amid a ruthless crackdown on dissidents like women's rights activist Samar Badawi. Meanwhile, any attempt by a foreign nation to draw attention to the human rights abuses is treated as an affront to the kingdom's sovereignty.

The backdrop: Badawi, a recipient of the 2012 International Women of Courage award, is one of at least 15 human rights activists and government critics to be arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia since May 15, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • On Aug. 2, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted that she was "very alarmed" to hear Badawi had been detained. The next day, the Canadian Foreign Ministry called for her "immediate release."
  • Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Monday expressing "disbelief" over the comment, calling it "a blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs."
  • "Throughout its long history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never accepted any interference in its domestic affairs by, or orders from any country. The Kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the Kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty."

In addition to freezing all new business and declaring the Canadian ambassador persona non grata, Saudi Arabia also plans to withdraw all 20,000 Saudi students studying in Canada, according to The Globe and Mail. They will reportedly be moved to similar programs in countries like the U.K.

Worth noting: Annual trade between the two countries is worth about $3 billion.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.