Jamal Khashoggi murder suspect arrested in France

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  • Jamal Khashoggi
    Saudi journalist (1958-2018)
  • Emmanuel Macron
    Emmanuel Macron
    President of France
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. - AP/AP
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. - AP/AP

French police have arrested one of the alleged members of the Saudi hit squad that murdered Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist, in 2018.

According to French media reports, Khalid Aedh Alotaibi was detained at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport while trying to board a flight to Riyadh.

The 33-year-old, who is understood to be a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard, was travelling with a passport under his real name, French police sources said.

News of Mr Alotaibi's arrest came just days after Emmanuel Macron, the French president, met Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh during a tour of the Gulf region.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and outspoken critic of the Crown Prince, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, was murdered in 2018 by Saudi agents at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

The Crown Prince denies any involvement in Khashoggi's death, though a CIA report recently concluded that he personally ordered the columnist's murder.

News website France Info said Mr Alotaibi would shortly appear in court in Paris and is being held in judicial detention until authorities decide on whether to extradite him.

Mr Alotaibi is one of 26 Saudis wanted by Turkey over Khashoggi's murder, which caused international outrage and turned the Crown Prince into a global pariah.

Khashoggi had been strangled and then dismembered inside the consulate according to Turkish investigators, though his remains have never been found.

According to the Washington Post, Mr Alotaibi appears to have accompanied Saudi royals on several trips to the United States, according to US travel records.

It was not immediately clear whether there was a link between Mr Macron's visit to Saudi Arabia and Tuesday night's arrest in Paris.

Speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the French president denied that he was legitimising the Crown Prince by meeting him.

"We (can) decide after the Khashoggi affair that we have no policy in the region, which is a choice some can defend, but I think France has an important role to play in the region," said Mr Macron, who is the first major western leader to meet the Crown Prince since the murder. "That doesn't mean we are complicit or that we forget," he added.

A Saudi official claimed that the arrest was a case of "mistaken identity" and that the person who was detained has a name that is very common in Saudi Arabia.

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