French authorities said the man was detained on an outstanding Turkish arrest warrant dating to November 2018. The suspect was thought to be Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi, a Saudi national wanted in connection with the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul three years ago.
A man identified as Otaibi was allegedly part of a 15-member team sent to kill Khashoggi in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Otaibi is one of 17 Saudis sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018 in connection with the killing.
Saudi officials had cast early doubt on the French claims. A Saudi official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said Tuesday that “media reports suggesting that a person who was implicated in the crime against Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi has been arrested in France are false. This is a case of mistaken identity. Those convicted of the crime are currently serving their sentences in Saudi Arabia.”
French police later said that they were not sure they had detained the right man. “It’s still possible that this is the right person, just as it’s still possible that it’s the wrong person,” a police spokesperson said Tuesday night.
A Saudi court in 2019 sentenced five people to death and three to prison over the killing of Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, but the death sentences were withdrawn after some of Khashoggi’s family members forgave his killers, enabling the sentences to be set aside according to Saudi law.
Dadouch reported from Beirut.