French police Tuesday arrested at Paris's main airport a suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 outside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, sources said.
Khalid Alotaibi, 33, was detained by border police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Turkey just before taking a flight to Riyadh from Charles de Gaulle airport, judicial and airport sources said. He is due to appear before prosecutors on Wednesday.
A Turkish court in 2020 began to try in absentia 20 suspects over the murder of Khashoggi, including two former aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish prosecutors then indicted six more Saudi suspects over the killing later that year, but no Saudi official has ever faced justice in person in Turkey over the killing.
In September 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia, sentencing them to 20 years in prison instead.
Lived in self-exile
Khashoggi — a prominent Saudi who lived in self-exile in the United States and wrote for The Washington Post — entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée.
According to US and Turkish officials, a waiting Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been retrieved.
The gruesome murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate, with Western intelligence agencies accusing Prince Mohammed bin Salman of authorising the killing.
Tuesday's arrest of Alotaibi comes only days after French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to include Saudi Arabia in a tour of Gulf states, saying the visit did not mean that he had "forgotten" about the Khashoggi case.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from "the highest levels" of the Saudi government and the case led to tensions between Ankara and Riyadh.
But Erdogan has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed and there have in recent months been signs of the thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with the Turkish foreign minister visiting Riyadh earlier this year in a bid to mend ties.
Crucially there have also been signs after many years of tensions in the wake of the 2016 failed coup bid of a thaw between Turkey and Saudi Arabia's top ally the United Arab Emirates, with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visiting Turkey last month.
On the third anniversary of the killing, Khashoggi's widow Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate while the murder took place, accused the US of failing to hold Saudi Arabia accountable.