France on Wednesday released a man arrested on suspicion of playing a role in the 2018 Istanbul murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after realizing he was not the same individual on an arrest warrant issued by Turkey.
The man, bearing a passport in the name of Khalid al-Otaibi, was arrested by French border police at Paris's main airport on Tuesday as he prepared to board a flight to Riyadh, police and judicial sources said.
A man named Khalid al-Otaibi is one of the 26 being tried in absentia in Turkey for being part of the hit squad that carried out Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He has also been sanctioned by the United States Treasury for his role in the killing.
"In-depth verifications to determine the identity of this person have enabled us to establish that the warrant was not applicable to him," the chief prosecutor in Paris said in a statement, confirming the man had been arrested on the basis of a Turkish arrest warrant issued in November 2018.
"He has been released," the prosecutor added.
While French authorities checked his identity, the Saudi embassy in Paris issued a statement late on Tuesday saying that the man arrested "has nothing to do with the case in question" and demanding his immediate release.
A security source in Saudi Arabia added that "Khalid al-Otaibi" was a very common name in the kingdom, and that the al-Otaibi the French thought they were holding was actually serving time in prison in Saudi Arabia along with "all the defendants in the case".
No Saudi official has ever faced justice in person in Turkey for the killing, with all the suspects there tried in absentia.
The murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate, with Western intelligence agencies accusing the kingdom's de-facto ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of authorizing the killing.