A group of U.S. Congressmen has called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to pressure Saudi Arabia for the release of all civil rights activists languishing in prison, whose detention has been openly criticized by Canada.
An unprecedented diplomatic row broke out between Saudi Arabia and Canada early this month after the North American Country called for the release of all civil rights activists locked up in the kingdom.
Prominent Saudi activist and former laureate of the department’s International Women of Courage Award, Samar Badawi is among the detainees.
Riyadh vehemently condemned Ottawa’s criticism and took several measures including recalling its ambassador, expelling the Canadian envoy, freezing new trade and business ties between the two countries and ordering a pullout of 16,000 Saudis including thousands of students studying in Canada.
The U.S. has refused to meddle in the spat despite Canada’s expectations.
In their letter to the Secretary of State, 32 members of the U.S. congress have criticized the State Department “mild” stance in the diplomatic spat arguing that the response is “insufficient”.
“We urge you to uphold our nation’s fundamental values and stand with Canada to deploy all diplomatic tools at your disposal to secure the release of Ms. Badawi and all imprisoned human rights advocates,” the Congressmen said in the letter.
The lawmakers who authored the letter include newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison – the first Muslim to enter the powerful institution.
Monday, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland whose tweet sparked the diplomatic showdown called on Germany to join the North American country in defending the activists.
Freeland, addressing diplomats at the annual gathering of foreign ambassadors based in the German capital, Berlin, insisted that Canada will always stand up for human rights “even when we are told to mind our own business … and even when speaking up brings consequences”, Reuters reports.
She added: “We count on and hope for Germany’s support.”
Germany has been cautioned to condemn the Saudi kingdom as it struggles to defuse a diplomatic dispute that erupted in November after former German top diplomat Sigmar Gabriel accused the kingdom of “adventurism” in the Middle East in reference to its role in Qatar’s isolation and in the Yemen conflict.
Because of the criticism, Saudi authorities have barred German healthcare firms from public tenders. Riyadh also protested by recalling its envoy in Berlin.