Khaled Alotaibi, one of several men suspected in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was arrested in France, according to foreign reports.
Alotaibi, 33, is one of 26 individuals wanted by the Turkish government after Khashoggi was killed in that country three years ago. A former member of the Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia, Alotaibi was reportedly boarding a flight to Riyadh in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport when he was arrested by French officials.
French radio station RTL reported that Alotaibi was in “judicial detention” as of midday Tuesday. The timeline of his extradition to Turkey was not immediately clear.
What Happened to Jamal Khashoggi?
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident noted for his criticism of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to get documents he needed for his upcoming wedding. He never reemerged.
The Saudi government has repeatedly denied any involvement. Officials originally claimed that the journalist had left the consulate alive, but later said he was killed during a fist fight he started with diplomatic staff.
Eventually, in 2019, a Saudi court convicted eight men of the murder. Crown prosecutors claimed the men were trying to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, from which he had fled in 2017, but that the journalist overdosed on the sedative they gave him.
Still, prosecutors maintained that the death was not premeditated, and that Khashoggi was not killed in retaliation for his criticism of the crown prince.
Saudi Arabia Widely Blamed for Journalist’s Murder
Independent investigations into the journalist’s death differed from Saudi accounts.
A 2019 United Nations report, supposedly based on audio recorded in the consulate and obtained by Turkish intelligence, determined that Khashoggi was murdered and that his body was dismembered. His remains have never been found.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the U.S. report claimed.
Dozens Wanted in Turkey for 2018 Murder
While the Saudi courts only convicted eight, unnamed individuals in connection with Khashoggi’s murder, the Turkish prosecutors seeking Khaled Alotaibi are building a much more expansive case.
Turkish courts have issued arrest warrants for 26 Saudi nationals, including two former aides of the crown prince. Twenty of them have been indicted and will be tried in absentia, and all but two of them are said to be facing life sentences.
Turkish prosecutors have also claimed that Saudi diplomats are stonewalling the investigation and have not complied with requests for information.
Who is Khaled Alotaibi?
According to the BBC, Saudi prosecutors arrested Khaled Alotaibi as part of their 2019 probe into Khashoggi’s death, but decided not to charge him.
The 33-year-old was spotted in the crown prince’s entourage during a 2017 state visit to Washington, D.C. the outlet added.
According to the U.N. report, Alotaibi was in Istanbul during the journalist’s murder, but that he was in the consul general’s residence, and not in the consulate. It’s not clear what Turkish investigators believe his role was in the 2018 slaying.
Saudi officials had previously rejected a Turkish request to extradite him to stand trial for Khashoggi’s death, the BBC added.