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Khashoggi Arrest Falls Apart

Man arrested in Paris isn't the right Khaled Alotaibi
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2021 12:31 PM CST
Updated Dec 8, 2021 10:30 AM CST
Khashoggi Slaying Suspect Arrested
A police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul prior to a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of his death.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

(Newser) Update: Officials didn't get their guy after all. ABC News reports the man arrested Tuesday at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport in connection with the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul was the wrong man. In what was apparently a case of mistaken identity, the Paris prosecutor's office now says the man who was attempting to board a flight to Saudi Arabia was not the 33-year-old Khaled Alotaibi wanted by Turkey. Al Jazeera talks to a source who says that's a common name in Saudi Arabia. The man has been released. Our original story from Dec. 7 follows:

story continues below

A former Saudi royal guard has been arrested in France, a suspect in the 2018 slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khaled Aedh Alotaibi, 33, was taken into custody Tuesday at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, the BBC reports. Turkey is seeking 25 other Saudis in the death of Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey suspects Alotaibi of being a member of the commando group in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, per the Guardian. He was about to board a flight to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, when he was picked up. An extradition hearing was scheduled for later in the day.

Alotaibi also has been a personal security official for crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has claimed that a rogue team of agents assigned to get Khashoggi to travel to the kingdom killed him, while Turkey says the agents were following government orders. The arrest Tuesday was the first outside Saudi Arabia of anyone named by international experts as being involved in the slaying. A court in Saudi Arabia found eight unidentified people guilty in the case in 2019; it's not known outside the kingdom whether Alotaibi was one of the eight.

A UN investigation concluded that he was in the consul general’s residence next to the consulate at the time of the slaying, but that he could have carried the bags that held parts of Khashoggi's remains when they were moved. That means Alotaibi could be "one of those who could provide information on the location of the body," said the investigator, Agnès Callamard, who now is with Amnesty International. Khashoggi was a persistent critic of the Saudi government. (Justin Bieber went ahead with a Saudi concert despite pleas from Khashoggi's fiancee.)

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