Paris: French police arrested a man suspected of involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Saudi officials claimed that they were holding the wrong man.
Investigators were seeking to confirm that the man carrying a passport in the name of Khalid Alotaibi was indeed the suspect by the same name sought by Turkey and sanctioned by the US over the gruesome killing of Khashoggi that unleashed a wave of global anger.
The Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement saying the man arrested “has nothing to do with the case in question” and demanded his immediate release.
Khalid Alotaibi is one of 26 Saudis charged in absentia by Turkey over the killing in a trial that got underway in October 2020. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.
A security source in Saudi Arabia added that “Khaled Alotaibi” was a very common name in the kingdom, and that the Alotaibi the French thought they were holding was actually serving time in prison in Saudi Arabia along with “all the defendants in the case”.
The man was detained by border police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Turkey as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, judicial and airport sources said, asking not to be named.
If confirmed as the suspected assassination team member, he will appear before French prosecutors.
He would have the right to challenge extradition to Turkey. If he does, the French judiciary must decide whether to keep him in detention pending a formal Turkish extradition request or to free him on condition that he does not leave France.