Saudi Arabia Says France Arrested Wrong Man For Jamal Khashoggi Murder

French police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of being involved in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Saudi officials claimed they were holding the wrong man.

Investigators sought to confirm that the man carrying a passport in the name of Khalid Alotaibi was indeed the suspect of the same name wanted by Turkey and sanctioned by the United States for the gruesome murder of Khashoggi which sparked a wave of anger global.

The Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the man arrested “has nothing to do with the case in question” and demanded his immediate release.

A security source in Saudi Arabia added that “Khaled Alotaibi” was a very common name in the kingdom, and that the Alotaibi that the French believed they had was in fact serving a prison sentence in Saudi Arabia with “all the defendants in it. ‘case”. “

The man was arrested 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 Charles de Gaulle airport , said judicial and airport sources, asking not to be named.

A man named Khalid Alotaibi is one of 26 Saudis indicted in absentia by Turkey for the murder in a trial that began in October 2020. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

Two of the 26 people tried in absentia in Turkey are former collaborators of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. No Saudi official has ever been brought to justice in Turkey for this murder.

Alotaibi is also one of 17 people the US Treasury nominated for sanctions in 2018 for their role in the murder.

A source familiar with the matter said the Interpol Red Notice issued at Turkey’s request was issued as the traveler passed passport control.

Checks were still underway Tuesday evening to ensure his identity is correct and that the arrest warrant applies to him, added another source familiar with the matter, noting that his detention can last up to 48 hours. .

If confirmed as a suspected member of the assassination team, he will appear before French prosecutors.

He would have the right to challenge the extradition to Turkey. If he does so, the French justice must decide to keep him in detention pending a formal request for Turkish extradition, or to release him on condition that he does not leave France.

It can usually take several weeks for a court to rule on whether to hand it over to Turkey against its will.

In September 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences handed down after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia, instead sentencing the accused to 20 years in prison.

Khashoggi – a prominent Saudi Arabian who lived in exile in the United States and wrote for the Washington Post – entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to file documents to marry his Turkish fiancee.

According to US and Turkish officials, a standby Saudi squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which was never found.

The gruesome murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate, with Western intelligence agencies accusing Prince Mohammed bin Salman of authorizing the murder.

Tuesday’s arrest comes just days after French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to include Saudi Arabia on a tour of the Gulf states, saying the visit did not mean he had “forgotten” l Khashoggi case.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the order to assassinate Khashoggi came “from the highest levels” of the Saudi government.

But Erdogan has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed and there have been signs of a thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Importantly, there were also signs after many years of tensions following the failed 2016 coup attempt of a thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s main ally, the UAE Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visited Turkey last month.

On the third anniversary of the murder, Khashoggi’s widow Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate during the murder, accused the United States of failing to hold Saudi Arabia to account.

Reporters Without Borders, a media rights organization, called Tuesday’s arrest “excellent news” and said it filed a complaint against Alotaibi for murder, torture and enforced disappearance in October 2019.

RSF said it maintained “total confidentiality” over the complaint in order to improve the chances of his arrest during a visit to France.

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