Saudi Arabia today announced that it was cancelling all business visas to Swedish citizens, in the latest escalation in the row between the two countries.
Sweden cancelled a long-standing defense contract with Saudi Arabia earlier this month over concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Swedish diplomat Margot Wallström had been scheduled to give the opening address at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo. Yet in February she had called the Kingdom a “dictatorship” and heavily criticized the Kingdom for flogging liberal blogger Raif Badawi in a speech to the Swedish parliament.
In protest, Saudi Arabia blocked her from speaking at the Arab League conference, and an Arab League statement was put out heavily criticizing Sweden’s comments on human rights and democracy, saying “Sharia has guaranteed human rights and preserved people’s lives, possessions, honour and dignity. The ministers consider the comments as irresponsible and unacceptable”
After this Sweden cancelled the defense contract, prompting the Gulf Kingdom to recall its Ambassador in protest. Saudi officials expressed their displeasure at what they saw as Swedish meddling in Saudi internal affairs.
The United Arab Emirates has since followed suit and recalled its own ambassador Sweden.
Germany also cut off arms sale to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, despite supplying €209 million last year. There have been growing calls from left wing parties in the German parliament to cut off economic relations with Saudi Arabia.
The parliamentary leader of the Green party, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, has called for Raif Badawi to be offered asylum in Germany. Socialist Left party MP Jan van Aken went further, demanding that there be no future arms sales to Saudi Arabia without an improvement in the kingdom’s human rights record.
These policies have wide popular support. A survey found that “78 percent of Germans believe Berlin should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia — and a further 60 percent want to break off trade ties all together — due to human rights violations.”
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is extremely poor. The Kingdom has executed 45 people so far in 2015 for a variety of offences.
This week the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia reportedly called for the destruction of all Churches in the gulf, justifying it using the same theology used by the Islamic State to justify its destruction of Iraq and Syria's cultural heritage, prompting comparisons between the Islamic State and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Grand Mufti, the highest ranked cleric in the Kingdom, has made the same call in the past along with other outrageous comments on (for example) women's rights.
As well as the Kingdom's abysmal religious rights record, it is persecuting human rights activists that criticize its system. These abusese include the ongoing flogging of Raif Badawi and the harsh of human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with a further 15 years travel ban.
On March 11 news broke that the founder Saudi Arabia’s Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPR), Mohammed al-Bajadi, had been arrested by Saudi authorities and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
He was tried in a secret terrorism court without access to his lawyers.
A report by Amnesty International details how the Saudi regime has targeted 11 of the major figures involved in the ACPR, eight of whom are currently detained as ‘prisoners of conscience.'