Jamal Khashoggi: France releases Saudi man held over journalist's murder as he was misidentified

Credit: AP

A Saudi man arrested at a French airport on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been released as he was the victim of mistaken identity, authorities have said.

The Paris General Prosecutor’s office issued a short statement on Wednesday after over 24 hours of checks, saying that the man arrested on Tuesday was not the Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi who is wanted under a 2019 Turkish arrest warrant.

“The (arrest) warrant does not apply to him,” the statement said, without providing further details.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Credit: AP

French media reported that the mix-up was related to the fact that the detained man had an identical name to al-Otaibi. The Saudi Embassy in Paris said the arrested man was released later Wednesday and boarded a flight to Saudi Arabia.

The embassy maintained that it was a case of mistaken identity, saying the man “had nothing to do with the case in question.” A person named Khalid Aedh Al-Otaibi was one of over a dozen Saudi officials sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2018 over Mr Khashoggi’s killing.

He was also mentioned in the declassified US intelligence report that said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had “approved” the operation that killed Mr Khashoggi.

Mr Khashoggi had written critically about Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. Credit: AP

The murder provoked a global uproar and damaged the image of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman- who said in a TV interview that he takes “full responsibility” for the grisly murder, but he denies allegations that he ordered the killing. Mr Khashoggi was a critic of the prince's authoritarian consolidation of power.

In 2018, Mr Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist, visited the Saudi consulate in Turkey in order to pick up documents needed for his wedding.

Inside the building, the journalist died at the hands of over a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who turned up before Khashoggi arrived.

His body has never been found.

In the hours leading up to the killing, CCTV cameras captured footage of Mr Khashoggi and his suspected killers in Istanbul.

A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw dismembering Mr Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his arrival. 

Saudi officials have said the killing was the work of rogue Saudi security and intelligence officials.

Last year, Saudi Arabian courts announced they had sentenced eight unidentified Saudi nationals to prison for Mr Khashoggi’s killing.