A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 5 2018. Picture: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL
A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 5 2018. Picture: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL

Paris — A Saudi man held at a Paris airport over suspected links to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested because his passport triggered an alert, a police source said on Wednesday, after Saudi Arabia said it was a case of mistaken identity.

French law enforcement sources have named the man arrested on Tuesday as Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi — the same name as a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard listed in US and British sanctions documents and a UN-commissioned report as having been involved in Khashoggi’s killing.

The Saudi Embassy in Paris said late on Tuesday the arrested person “has nothing to do with the case in question” and should be immediately released.

The man was intercepted at the airport on Tuesday morning when his passport triggered an alert while being scanned, the police source said on Wednesday.

The alert showed he was wanted in connection with a murder investigation, the source said, adding that the alert was based on a Turkish arrest warrant.

According to French law, authorities have 48 hours from the moment he was intercepted at the airport — so until just before 9am GMT on Thursday — to verify who he is and either release him or take steps to detain him longer and start potential extradition procedures.

French police have his passport details and a picture of rather poor quality based on the Turkish arrest warrant, but no biometric information, the police source noted, adding that they could potentially request more information from Turkey.

A 2019 UN investigation report said Al-Otaibi was a member of a 15-man Saudi team involved in killing Khashoggi after the journalist went to the consulate to obtain a document to allow him to marry his fiancée.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist 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 officials believe his body was dismembered and removed. His remains have not been found.

A US intelligence report released in March 2021 said Prince Mohammed had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report's findings.

Last weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron held face-to-face talks in Saudi Arabia with Prince Mohammed, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the country since Khashoggi’s murder.

Reuters

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