Europe

Jamal Khashoggi murder suspect arrested in Paris

Published : December 08, 2021 16:47 IST

Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Pitarakis

The arrest of a Saudi man in France could lead to a 'breakthrough' in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

French police arrested a suspect in the murder of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi on December 7. Various news agencies and French media reported, citing police and judicial sources, that the 33-year-old man was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia and was nabbed at Roissy airport as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh. Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey in 2018. U.S. and Turkish officials said a Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body.

Suspect wanted in Turkey

December 7's arrest was carried out on a warrant issued by Turkey in 2019. On December 8 prosecutors will begin a process to determine if the 33-year-old suspect will be extradited to Turkey. "France should try him for his crime, or extradite him to a country able and willing to genuinely investigate and prosecute him as well as the person who gave the order to murder Jamal," Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancee, said on Twitter. A Turkish court began to try 20 Saudi nationals suspected of involvement in the assassination in absentia in 2020. Turkish prosecutors charged six more Saudi suspects later that year, but no one has faced trial in person in Turkey as yet.

Saudi official dismisses arrest

A Saudi official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, dismissed Tuesday's arrest as "a case of mistaken identity." The official said those responsible for the murder were serving their sentences in Saudi Arabia. Last year a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial. The convicted were instead sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Early in December, French President Emmanuel Macron included Saudi Arabia in a tour of Gulf states. He had to defend his decision to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying it did not mean that he had "forgotten" about the Khashoggi case. In 2020 a U.S. intelligence report accused bin Salman of ordering the murder.

Suspect's arrests could lead to a 'breakthrough'

The United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings found that there was "credible evidence" that bin Salman and other top Saudi officials were responsible for the murder. In her 2019-report, Agnès Callamard, who is now secretary-general of Amnesty International, said the suspect arrested on December 7 was at the Saudi consulate on the night of the assassination.

She welcomed the arrest saying it could lead to a 'breakthrough" if the suspect "could provide information on the location of the body.” December 7's arrest was also welcomed by Reporters Without Borders: "Excellent news that the French police did not turn a blind eye," the media watchdog's head, Christophe Deloire, said. "Finally a protagonist who can speak."

lo/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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