The Saudi man arrested at a Paris airport on Tuesday for alleged links to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was released on Wednesday after authorities concluded it was a mistaken identity, prosecutors said from Paris.
French law enforcement sources on Tuesday named the man Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi, the same name as a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard listed in US and UK sanctions documents and a UN commissioned report as having been involved in the murder of Khashoggi in Turkey.
The Saudi embassy in Paris said Tuesday evening that the person arrested “has nothing to do with the case in question”.
Prosecutors said checks showed that a warrant issued by Turkey, which triggered the arrest when the man’s passport was scanned during border checks, did not apply to the arrested man. at the airport.
“Thorough checks on the identity of this person showed that the warrant did not apply to him (…) he was released,” said the statement from the prosecutor’s office.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter and critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. Turkish authorities believe his body was dismembered and removed. His remains have not been found.
News of the arrest – believed to be the man Turkey wanted – had sparked backlash, with human rights groups and Khashoggi’s fiancee voicing their relief that such a well-known suspect is on trial.
A 2019 UN investigative report said Al-Otaibi was a member of a 15-man Saudi team involved in Khashoggi’s murder after the journalist visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document. allowing him to marry his fiancee.
The arrest came at a sensitive time, just days after French President Emmanuel Macron had face-to-face talks in Saudi Arabia with Prince Mohammed, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the kingdom since the murder of Khashoggi.
Macron considers Saudi Arabia vital in helping forge a regional peace deal with Iran, as well as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants from the Middle East to West Africa, and a bulwark against the Muslim Brotherhood.
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