Saudi man on his wrongful arrest in Paris: ‘It was like a glasshouse’

Not clear if Khalid Al Otaibi will sue French authorities for defamation and financial compensation

The man was arrested in Paris. AFP

A Saudi man who was wrongly arrested this week in Paris in a case of mistaken identity, compared his experience to being in a zoo.

Khalid Al Otaibi's short ordeal began on Tuesday when he was arrested by border police at Paris's main airport. French officials thought that he was another man, with the same name, wanted for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“They have kept me in something like a glasshouse. It was an all-glass room for criminals and closely monitored. It was so tight and I couldn’t sleep at night. I actually felt very uncomfortable. They were watching as if they were at a zoo,” Mr Al Otaibi told the Saudi Al Ekhbariya news channel.

Mr Al Otaibi was on holiday in Paris. On Tuesday, he was preparing to board a flight to Riyadh but, instead, was arrested.

He claimed that the detention staff did not allow him to make any phone calls.

“They were pacing the way outside back and forth, and didn’t allow me to call my embassy and asked me not to use my phone. I managed to stealthily alert a friend, who in turn informed the Saudi embassy," he said.

"Then an embassy official visited me and he said the ambassador himself was following up the case and the embassy hired a high-profile French lawyer. I was released shortly afterwards,” he said.

French law enforcement sources told France 24 that they had identified Mr Al Otaibi because he has the same name as a Saudi man listed in US and British sanctions documents and a UN-commissioned report as having been involved in Khashoggi’s killing in Turkey.

The Saudi embassy in Paris said in a statement on twitter late on Tuesday that the arrested person “has nothing to do with the case in question”.

French prosecutors said that extensive checks on the identity of Mr Al Otaibi showed that an arrest warrant as well as an Interpol Red Notice did not apply to him.

It is not clear whether Mr Otaibi plans to sue the relevant authorities in France for defamation.

The case drew widespread attention this week because it refocuses attention on the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed in October 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate to obtain the paperwork he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Saudi Arabia categorically denied it had ordered or knew about the killing, which it described as “a rogue operation”.

A Saudi court sentenced five men to death and three to prison terms for the murder, but the death sentences were replaced by prison terms after the Khashoggi family said they had forgiven the killers.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 6:34 PM