Khashoggi murder suspect is arrested in France: Former member of Saudi Royal Guard is held while waiting to board a flight to Riyadh
- Khalid Al-Otaibi has been arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris today
- France acted on a warrant issued by Turkey in 2019, police sources said
- Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018
One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been arrested by French police.
Khalid Al-Otaibi was detained at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris today as he prepared to board a flight to Riyadh after border police acted on a warrant issued by Turkey in 2019.
The suspect, 33, was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been part of the team that murdered Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
He was on the Interpol red list but was travelling under his real name today.
He will appear before a judge within hours where he will be offered the choice of being flown to Turkey or contesting his warrant and awaiting extradition in custody.
The arrest will now likely spark a diplomatic row as authorities in France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia try to wrestle him into their legal jurisdictions.
Khalid Al-Otaibi (circled at Istanbul airport just before the killing alongside other suspects) has been arrested by French police
One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured) has been arrested by French police
A Saudi passport held by a man with the same name was allegedly used to enter the US on three occasions on trips coinciding with Saudi royals.
He was then present in Istanbul at the time of the slaying, flying to the Turkish capital on a commercial flight before staying at the Wyndham Grand hotel, the Washington Post reported.
He was named among 17 people sanctioned by the US for their role in the murder.
A Turkish court in 2020 began to try in absentia 20 suspects over the murder of Khashoggi, including two former aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish prosecutors then indicted six more Saudi suspects over the killing later that year, but no Saudi official has ever faced justice in person in Turkey over the killing.
In September 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia, sentencing them to 20 years in prison instead.
Khashoggi is seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the day of his killing
Today’s arrest comes just days after Emmanuel Macron flew to the UAE to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Khashoggi had entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.
According to US and Turkish officials, a waiting Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been retrieved.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from ‘the highest levels’ of the Saudi government and the case led to tensions between Ankara and Riyadh.
But Erdogan has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed and there have in recent months been signs of the thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with the Turkish foreign minister visiting Riyadh earlier this year in a bid to mend ties.
Crucially there have also been signs after many years of tensions in the wake of the 2016 failed coup bid of a thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s top ally the United Arab Emirates, with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visiting Turkey last month.
The journalist had once been close to the Saudi royal family but before his death had written critical pieces in the Washington Post about Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) and his policies
Today’s arrest comes just days after Emmanuel Macron flew to the UAE to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi who lived in self-exile in the United States and wrote for The Washington Post, was strangled by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and his body dismembered.
The journalist had once been close to the Saudi royal family but before his death had written critical pieces in the Washington Post about bin Salman and his policies.
The crown prince came under worldwide suspicion over Khashoggi’s death and a UN investigator’s report in 2019 said there was credible evidence of his involvement.
Joe Biden’s administration released a declassified report by intelligence earlier this year that concluded bin Salman ‘approved’ the operation – but took no action against the crown prince himself.
The ruler has denied involvement in the murder but Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a ‘rogue’ extradition operation gone wrong.
Five men were given the death penalty for the journalist’s murder but had their sentences commuted to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.