© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
By Alain Acco and Tassilo Hummel
PARIS (Reuters) -One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, a police source and a judicial source said.
The arrest came just days after French President Emmanuel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/khashoggis-shadow-macron-set-saudi-talks-with-crown-prince-2021-12-04Macron held face-to-face talks in Saudi Arabia with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the kingdom since Khashoggi’s murder.
“I welcome the arrest of one of Jamal’s killers today in #France,” his fiancee Hatice Cengiz said on Twitter (NYSE:) https://mobile.twitter.com/mercan_resifi/status/1468267483350147074. “France should try him for his crime, or extradite him to a country able and willing to genuinely investigate and prosecute him as well as the person who gave the order to murder Jamal.”
Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammed, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Turkish officials believe his body was dismembered and removed. His remains have not been found.
The police source named the man arrested on Tuesday as Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi, a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia.
Al-Otaibi, who is mentioned on UK and U.S. sanctions lists as being involved in Khashoggi’s murder, was also on a French wanted list.
“Excellent news that the French police did not turn a blind eye to the presence on the national territory of Khaled Al-Otaibi,” media watchdog Reporters Without Borders https://twitter.com/cdeloire/status/1468260949308096518 said. “Finally a protagonist who can speak.”
He was arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by Turkey in 2019, the police source told Reuters. French prosecutors will now begin proceedings for a potential extradition there.
A report https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1003139/Global_Human_Rights.pdf by Britain’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation said Al-Otaibi, whom it mentions also goes by Altaibi, “as involved in the unlawful killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, as part of the 15 man team sent to Turkey by Saudi authorities.”
Al-Otaibi, born in 1988, “was involved in the concealment of evidence at the Saudi General Consul’s residence following the killing,” that report said, while a U.S. department of Treasury report https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm547 said: “The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
A U.S. intelligence report released in March https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Assessment-Saudi-Gov-Role-in-JK-Death-20210226v2.pdf said Prince Mohammed had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report’s findings.
France is one of Saudi Arabia’s main arms suppliers, but it has faced pressure to review its sales because of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, now one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Macron last week rejected accusations that he was legitimising the crown prince, saying the region’s many crises could not be dealt with by ignoring Saudi Arabia.
The judicial source confirmed Al-Otaibi’s arrest on the basis of a Turkish arrest warrant. Authorities were in the process of verifying his identity and it was too soon to say if and when an extradition could take place, the source said.
It was unclear how or when Al-Otaibi arrived in France.
The French Interior Ministry and the Saudi embassy in Paris declined to comment. The Saudi government media office CIC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.