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Man arrested over Jamal Khashoggi killing was a case of mistaken identity, French authorities say

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The man detained in Paris over suspected links to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was misidentified, French authorities have confirmed.

France confirmed it was the wrong person after having 48 hours to verify the identity of the man arrested, with the Saudi Embassy earlier calling it a case of mistaken identity.

Named by French law enforcement sources as Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi, he was arrested as he was about to board a flight to the Saudi capital Riyadh because his passport triggered an alert.

Jamal Khashoggi: How journalist met his death inside Saudi consulate in Istanbul

He has the same name as a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard listed in US and British sanctions documents and a UN-commissioned report as having been involved in Khashoggi’s killing in Turkey.

In a statement, French authorities said on Wednesday: “In-depth verifications relating to the identity of this person made it possible to establish that the mandate did not apply to him.

“At the end of his judicial detention, he was released.”

The Saudi Embassy in Paris said late on Tuesday “the person who was arrested has nothing to do with the case in question” and should be immediately released.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs added: “The embassy would also like to reaffirm that the Saudi judiciary has issued verdicts against all of those who participated in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi and all of them are currently serving their sentences.”

The man was intercepted at the airport on Tuesday morning when his passport triggered an alert based on a Turkish arrest warrant while being scanned.

French police had his passport details and a picture of rather poor quality based on the Turkish arrest warrant, but no biometric information, said a police source.

Mr Khashoggi was a Saudi-born US resident and a reporter who was a frequent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

A 2019 UN report said a 15-member Saudi team were involved in the death of the journalist after he went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document to allow him to marry his fiancé.

Recordings suggest Mr Khashoggi’s body was dismembered by a bone saw and partly burnt in a tandoori oven in the garden.

His body was never found.

The report said Al-Otaibi was one of five members of the team who were not in the consulate itself – where the killing reportedly took place – but in the consul general’s residence, where the body was taken.

The crown prince has denied any involvement, but an intelligence report found bin Salman is likely to have approved the operation.

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