France arrests suspected member of Khashoggi murder squad
France arrests suspected member of Khashoggi murder squad
A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 25, 2018. — Reuters/File

PARIS: French police on Tuesday arrested a suspected member of the hit squad that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul and who is wanted by Turkey to face justice over the killing.

Khalid Alotaibi, 33, was detained by border police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Turkey as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, judicial and airport sources said. He is due to appear before prosecutors on Wednesday.

He is one of 26 Saudis charged in absentia by Turkey over the killing in a trial that got underway in October 2020. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

Two of the 26 being tried in absentia in Turkey are former aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. No Saudi official has ever faced justice in person in Turkey for the killing.

Alotaibi is also one of 17 people that the US Treasury designated for sanctions in 2018 over their role in the murder.

He has the right to fight extradition to Turkey. If he does, the French judiciary must decide whether to keep him in detention pending a formal Turkish extradition request, or to free him on condition that he does not leave France.

It can typically take several weeks for a court to rule on whether to hand him over to Turkey against his will.

In September 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia, sentencing the accused to 20 years in prison instead.

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