French authorities on Wednesday released a man arrested on suspicion of playing a role in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul after determining he had been a victim of mistaken identity.
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 initially told French media that he was the Khalid al-Otaibi wanted under an international arrest warrant for being part of the hit squad that carried out Khashoggi's murder.
"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, Remy Heitz, said in a statement that admitted to the blunder.
"He has been released," it added,
Saudi Arabia has denied that a citizen arrested in France on Tuesday was connected to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it expects the man to be released shortly.
French radio RTL said the Saudi citizen was arrested at Roissy airport near Paris as he was trying to board a flight to Riyadh. A French judicial official told the Associated Press that a man was detained on a Turkish arrest warrant.
The Saudi embassy in Paris said media reports about the case were wrong and that the arrested man “had nothing to do with the case in question”. It said the embassy expects his immediate release.
The embassy also said that those responsible for the 2018 murder of Khashoggi had already faced trial and been sentenced in Riyadh.
“The embassy would also like to reaffirm that the Saudi judiciary has issued verdicts against all those who participated in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi, all of them are currently serving their sentences.”
There was no immediate comment from Turkey over the arrest, but last year it began trying 26 Saudi citizens in their absence over Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul.
Khashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia said the murder was an unsanctioned operation by security officials and the Kingdom has since reformed the leadership of its top intelligence agencies in an attempt to prevent such an incident from happening again.
Following the trial in Saudi Arabia, which was attended by foreign diplomats, Khashoggi’s family said that justice had been served and that they had forgiven his killers.