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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

France frees Saudi suspect arrested over Khashoggi killing

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 08 December 2021 5:00 PM

French authorities have released a Saudi man earlier arrested at a Paris airport over suspected links to the 2018 Saudi state-sponsored killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Media reports said Khalid al-Otaibi, a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia, was reportedly detained by border police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Turkey just before taking a flight to Riyadh on Tuesday. Al-Otaibi is believed to have been involved in the killing of Khashoggi.

But al-Otaibi was freed on Wednesday after prosecutors said checks had shown that the warrant did not apply to the man arrested at the airport. "Extensive checks on the identity of this person showed that the warrant did not apply to him... he was released," a statement from the prosecutor's office said.

News of the arrest had triggered a wave of reactions, with rights groups expressing relief that such a high-profile suspect would be judged.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate in October 2018. Saudi Arabia initially issued conflicting stories about his disappearance, but eventually claimed he had been killed in a "rogue" operation.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is widely believed, including by the CIA, to have personally ordered the murder.

A 2019 UN investigation report said al-Otaibi was a member of a 15-man Saudi team involved in the murder.

The arrest and subsequent release came days after French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the country since the murder of Khashoggi. Macron met bin Salman during that visit. His visit to Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region drew criticism from rights groups.

In July, the US administration also sparked outrage over welcoming Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of Mohammed, who is linked to the murder case. Khalid, who is also Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister, became the highest-ranking visitor from the kingdom to arrive in Washington since President Joe Biden took office. The trip came almost six months into the Biden administration. The US president had vowed to make Saudi Arabia "the pariah they are" when campaigning for presidency last year.

While Biden published an assessment by US intelligence agencies that bin Salman personally ordered the murder of Khashoggi, he later cited national interests for not punishing him. Bin Salman is also accused of ordering assassination missions against a former Saudi intelligence official, Saad al-Jabri, who currently resides in Canada and revealed earlier this year that he had faced repeated threats on his life.

In June, Saudi Arabia was named by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) as the second-worst country in the world in terms of human rights due to its ban on protests, limits on free expression and civil society organizations, and the inability of citizens to vote or participate in public life.

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest importer of weapons and the United States, the United Kingdom, and France are its main suppliers.

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