Saudi Man Mistakenly Identified as One of Jamal Khashoggi's Killers Freed by France

French authorities released a Saudi national on Wednesday who they had detained after misidentifying him as one of the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Law enforcement sources arrested a man at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport named Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi, which is the same name as a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard suspected to have been involved in Khashoggi's killing.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported the man arrested shared the same first name and family name as al-Otaibi, but not the same patronymic name. His passport number also did not match the wanted man's passport number.

Soon after the man's arrest, the Saudi Embassy in Paris said the suspect had "nothing to do with the case in question" and demanded his "immediate release."

Khashoggi
A man mistaken for a suspect involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was released Wednesday. In this photo, protestors hold posters bearing Khashoggi's picture as they attend an event marking the second-year anniversary of his death in front of Saudi Arabia's Istanbul Consulate on October 2, 2020. Getty

Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz eventually came to the same conclusion and on Wednesday announced an error had been made. In a statement, Heitz said: "After thorough checks on the identity of this person, it was established that the warrant did not apply to him...he was released."

Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post, was last seen at a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018. His remains have not been found, but officials believe his body was dismembered and removed.

Before his disappearance, Khashoggi had emerged as a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Following news of the Tuesday arrest, Khashoggi's fiancée expressed hope about justice being served for his death.

"The arrest of one of the killers is a very significant first step for justice for Jamal. I have been waiting for too long, now the first person has finally been arrested," Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancée, told Agence France-Presse.

But a senior French police official who spoke with Reuters said he was surprised by the arrest. He told the news agency that the detained man had made several European trips in past months and had entered France in November without incident.

The still-wanted al-Otaibi was named in a 2019 United Nations investigation as a member of a team of men who were involved with killing Khashoggi after the journalist visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to order to get a document to allow him to marry Cengiz.

An assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after Khashoggi's death concluded that Prince Mohammed likely ordered the execution. More recently, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized in February the release of an intelligence report that stated Mohammed had approved a plan to assassinate the journalist.