France release mistakenly arrested man for murder of Khashoggi
The French authorities announce the release of a Saudi citizen bearing the same name as a man wanted for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
French authorities released Wednesday a man arrested on suspicion of playing a role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which took place in Istanbul in 2018.
The French decision came after the authorities found that the detainee had been a victim of mistaken identity.
The French border police at Roissy Airport arrested Tuesday the man bearing a passport in the name of Khalid al-Otaibi as he was preparing to board a flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
French media reported that the police and judicial sources told them he was the al-Otaibi wanted under an international arrest warrant for being part of the hit squad that carried out the journalist's murder at his home country's 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, admitting to the gaffe. "He has been released," Heitz added.
Turkey is trying in absentia 26 people over the assassination of Khashoggi, and Istanbul issued an Interpol Red Notice seeking the suspects, while the United States announced sanctions on all the members of the hit squad.
The Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement late on Tuesday saying the man arrested at the hands of the French police had "nothing to do with the case in question," demanding his immediate release.
A security source in Saudi Arabia explained that "Khalid al-Otaibi" was a very common name in the KSA, and that the al-Otaibi the French thought they were holding was actually serving his time in prison in Saudi Arabia along with "all the defendants in the case."
'All defendants serving sentences
Media rights body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had welcomed Tuesday's arrest, saying it was "excellent news". RSF also noted that it would reactivate a previously filed legal complaint with Paris prosecutors against al-Otaibi for murder, torture, and enforced disappearance against the Saudi journalist
A source close to the French investigation insisted that the man arrested in Paris had the same date and place of birth as the wanted al-Otaibi, and even bore a physical resemblance.
The al-Otaibi's arrest came three days after French President Emanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh.
"[The visit] doesn't mean that I endorse anything," Macron said in a reference to the Khashoggi murder.