Paris: French authorities on Wednesday released a man arrested on suspicion of playing a role in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul after determining he had been a victim of mistaken identity.
The man, bearing a passport in the name of Khalid Al Otaibi, 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 initially told French media that he was the Khalid Al Otaibi wanted under an international arrest warrant for being part of the hit squad that carried out Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“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, Remy Heitz, said in a statement that admitted to the blunder.
“He has been released,” it added
The Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement late on Tuesday saying that the arrested man had “nothing to do with the case in question” and demanded his immediate release.
A security source in Saudi Arabia added that ‘Khalid Al Otaibi’ was a very common name in the kingdom, and that the Al Otaibi the French thought they were holding was actually serving time in prison in Saudi Arabia along with “all the defendants in the case”.
Saudi Arabia has always insisted that its legal process 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.
Khashoggi — a prominent Saudi who lived in self-exile in the US — entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.