A top Saudi official suspected of involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has reportedly been arrested in France.
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the government in Riyadh, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2020, resulting in huge international condemnation.
Saudi Arabia said the former Washington Post journalist had been killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to persuade him to return to the kingdom.
But Turkish officials said the agents acted on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government most possibly Sauid crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman even though he denied any role.
On Tuesday, December 7, French authorities announced that Khaled Aedh Alotaibi was arrested at Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris.
He is one of 26 Saudis wanted by Turkey over the journalist’s killing.
The 33-year-old former Saudi royal guard was travelling under his own name, authorities say and has been placed in judicial detention.
Prior to his arrest, Alotaibi was the subject of a Turkish arrest warrant and is being tried in absentia in Istanbul on a murder charge. He could be extradited to Turkey which could spark diplomatic standoff between France and Saudi Arabia.
In 2020, a Saudi court convicted eight unnamed people over the murder. Five of them were found guilty of directly participating in the killing and handed death sentences that were later commuted to 20-year prison terms, while three others were jailed for seven to 10 years for covering up the crime.
The UN dismissed the Saudi trial as “the antithesis of justice”. Then-UN Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard, concluded that Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution”.
A 2020 report by Ms Callamard said Saudi prosecutors ordered the arrest of Alotaibi as part of an investigation into Khashoggi’s murder but ultimately decided not to charge him.