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France confirms Khashoggi murder suspect arrest was a case of mistaken identity

·2 min read

A Saudi man arrested in Paris in connection with the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul has been released and is not the suspect being sought by Turkey over the crime, French prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia had insisted the suspect was a victim of mistaken identity.

"In-depth verifications to determine the identity of this person have enabled us to establish that the warrant was not applicable to him," the chief prosecutor in Paris said in a statement, referring to an international arrest warrant issued by Turkey.

The man, bearing a passport in the name of Khaled Alotaibi was arrested by French border police at Paris's main airport on Tuesday as he prepared to board a flight to Riyadh, police and judicial sources said.

A man named Khaled Alotaibi is one of the 26 on trial in absentia by Turkey for being part of the hit squad that carried out the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He has also been sanctioned by the US Treasury for his role in the killing.

The man was detained after an Interpol Red Notice issued at the request of Turkey was activated as he passed through the passport control, said a source close to the case, who asked not to be identified.

But the Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement late on Tuesday 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 the French thought they were holding was actually serving time in prison in Saudi Arabia along with "all the defendants in the case".

Twenty-six Saudis are now on trial in absentia in Istanbul over the killing in a process that began in October 2020. No Saudi official has ever faced justice in person in Turkey for the killing.

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

The murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate, with Western intelligence agencies accusing the kingdom's de-facto ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman of authorising the killing.

Saudi Arabia however insists that the legal process it carried out into the Khashoggi killing has been completed and there is no need for any further arrests.

"The Saudi judiciary has issued verdicts against all those who took part in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi, all of them are currently serving their sentences," the Paris embassy said.

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

(with AFP)

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