PARIS | End of the imbroglio around a Saudi national arrested Tuesday in France: after checks on his identity, the man is not related to the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in Istanbul and he was handed over free on Wednesday.
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He was arrested by the border police at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport “on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the Turkish judicial authorities on November 5, 2018 in connection with the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and following the dissemination of an Interpol red notice, ”Paris Attorney General Rémy Heitz said in a press release.
“The thorough checks relating to the identity of this person made it possible to establish that the warrant did not apply to her”, he added, adding that “he was released”.
At the time of his passage through control Tuesday morning when he was preparing to take a flight to Riyadh, the Saudi had presented a passport in the name of Khaled al-Otaibi and the Interpol red notice had been activated, explained a source close to the case.
“Almost perfect disambiguation”
“It’s an almost perfect homonymy,” someone close to the matter told AFP on Wednesday.
According to a source familiar with the matter, “the cross-referenced search cards matched the profile of al-Otaibi, same month, year and place of birth. ”
“There was a physical resemblance”, added the source, specifying that “it is the judicial elements arrived from Turkey which made release this man”.
While checks on his identity were carried out by the French authorities, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Paris assured Tuesday evening that “the citizen in question has no connection” with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and demanded his ” immediate release ”.
A source belonging to the Saudi security services said Tuesday evening that “the real Khaled al-Otaibi and all the accused in this case are imprisoned within the Saudi kingdom”.
“There are hundreds of Saudis who bear the same name,” she stressed.
Critic of Saudi power after being close to it, Jamal Khashoggi, resident in the United States and columnist for the daily Washington Post, was assassinated on October 2, 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of agents from the kingdom .
His dismembered body has never been found.
A US intelligence report accuses Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman (MBS) of having “validated” the assassination.
After denying the murder, Ryad ended up saying that it had been committed by Saudi agents who acted alone. After an opaque trial in Saudi Arabia, five Saudis were sentenced to death and three to prison terms – death sentences have since been commuted.
Three people were acquitted, including one of the main collaborators of MBS, the deputy chief of intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri.
The foreign press had been banned from covering this trial. Nevertheless, Turkish diplomats and permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – were allowed to attend, as observers.
Most of the names of the defendants have not been disclosed so far, which could explain why Interpol’s non-public Red Notice was still active.
Asked, the police cooperation organization, based in Lyon, referred to the French authorities.
On Tuesday evening, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization reported on its website that it had filed a complaint in Paris in October 2019 for murder, torture and enforced disappearance, against Khaled al-Otaibi.
“This complaint was closed without follow-up by the prosecution, in the absence of elements allowing at the time to establish its presence in France”, according to RSF.
The imbroglio around the identity of the Saudi national came three days after French President Emmanuel Macron met with the Saudi crown prince in Jeddah.
Emmanuel Macron had justified his meeting with the Crown Prince, one of the first for a Western leader since the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, because “dialogue with Saudi Arabia is a necessity” because of its “demographic weight, economic, historical and religious ”.