The 33-year-old was detained at Charles de Gaulle Airport before his flight at 9:30 a.m. local time, and was traveling under a real passport, a spokesperson for the French National Police told CNN. He was placed in judicial detention, the spokesperson added.
The suspect had been identified as Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi, radio station RTL reported, citing French police and judicial sources. French police would not confirm the man’s identity to CNN.
However, a senior Saudi official told CNN that the detention is “believed to be a case of mistaken identity.”
By late Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in France released a statement saying media reports were “incorrect” and “the person who was arrested has nothing to do with the case in question.”
The Embassy said it expects the Saudi citizen’s “immediate release.” It added that “the Saudi judiciary has issued verdicts against all of those who participated in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi, all of them are currently serving their sentences,” in a statement posted on Twitter.
Al-Otaibi was one of 16 individuals banned from the United States by the State Department in April 2019 for “their roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Likewise, the British government placed Al-Otaibi under sanctions in July 2020. The UK government said “he was involved in the unlawful killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul … as part of the 15 man team sent to Turkey by Saudi authorities. He was involved in the concealment of evidence at the Saudi General Consul’s residence following the killing.”
If the suspect’s identity is confirmed as Al-Otaibi, he would face arrest and a preliminary hearing Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Paris court of appeals told CNN — potential first steps toward extradition. The court would not confirm the man’s identity.
Khashoggi’s former fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, told CNN in a statement that the arrest could be “a very significant first step for justice for Jamal” and urged justice to “be allowed to take its proper course.”
“Those who executed the plan must not be used to shield those much higher up who gave the order for Jamal’s brutal killing,” Cengiz added.
Saudi’s Foreign Ministry “completely rejected” the report.
There has been no official reaction from the Turkish authorities regarding the detention of the Saudi national by French police.
From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Pierre Bairin in Paris; Gul Tuysuz in Istanbul. Nic Robertson, Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report