STOCKHOLM - Saudi Arabia has recalled its Stockholm ambassador, the Swedish foreign ministry said Wednesday as the rift between the two countries deepened in the wake of Sweden cutting military ties.

“Diplomatic relations are not broken. But Saudi Arabia’s ambassador has been recalled,” spokesman Erik Boman told AFP after Sweden scrapped military cooperation with the conservative Islamic kingdom on Tuesday.

Sweden scrapped a long-standing military deal with the Saudis on Tuesday after accusing the country of blocking Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem from speaking at an Arab League meeting.

“This is not a game. It’s a serious issue that must be treated seriously,” Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Loefven told public broadcaster Swedish Radio on Wednesday. His party had come under intense pressure to abandon the deal from coalition partners the Green Party.

The Social Democrats refused to cite human rights as a motive for the decision but Wallstroem had said her opening speech at Monday’s meeting in Cairo was blocked by the Saudis for her pro-democracy stance in the region. The deal involved exchanges of military products, logistics, technology and training. The Swedish defence minister said only cooperation in medicine and gender studies would remain on offer. “In practical terms, there is no military cooperation,” the minister, Peter Hultqvist, told public broadcaster SVT.

“What we have is an open invitation to partake in medical and gender training, but the Saudi side has not shown any interest,” he added. The deal on military cooperation - signed by a left-wing government in 2005 and renewed in 2010 - has come under domestic fire after journalists in 2011 revealed that Sweden had secretly helped the Saudis construct a weapons factory.

Sweden’s decision to scrap the agreement “is actually not surprising after such a heated debate,” political scientist Thord Janson at the University of Gothenburg told AFP. “What surprised (me) more was the signing of this agreement 10 years ago, when Saudi Arabia was more or less considered a normal country,” he added.

Meanwhile, a founding member of one of the few independent human rights groups in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, a regional rights group said on Wednesday.

Mohammed al-Bajadi was sentenced last Thursday by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, whose jurisdiction is related to “terrorism”, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) said in a statement.

Bajadi is a founder of the Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), said the GCHR, which has offices in Beirut and Copenhagen. “The court ordered him to serve the first five years of the sentence and suspended the last five years,” it said, adding that he was tried “without prior notification or access to his lawyers.”

Bajadi, in his 30s, faced various accusations including acquiring banned books, organising a protest by the families of prisoners and publishing material that “would prejudice public order”, the group said.

According to a report by London-based Amnesty International in October, Saudi authorities “have targeted the founding members of ACPRA one by one, in a relentless effort to dismantle the organisation and silence its members, as part of a broader crackdown on independent activism and freedom of expression since 2011.”

Bajadi was one of three members of the group awaiting re-trial. Two others were detained without trial, while three were serving prison terms of up to 15 years, Amnesty said in October.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia deplored criticism of its judiciary and said it does not accept “any form of interference in its internal affairs”.

The comments came in response to worldwide outrage over the sentence of 1,000 lashes handed to another activist, Raef Badawi, for “insulting Islam.”

The foreign ministry said the country’s constitution “is based on sharia (Islamic law) that guarantees human rights”.

Sweden announced on Tuesday that it will not renew a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, effectively ending defence ties due to mounting concerns over human rights issues.

In January, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem condemned the kingdom’s treatment of Badawi as “nearly mediaeval”. Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January but there have been no more since.