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French police nabbed wrong man in death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, officials say

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French police nabbed wrong man in death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, officials say
Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, and was later declared dead. File Photo by Ali Haider/EPA-EFE

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A suspect who was arrested at the airport in Paris -- for supposedly playing a part in the 2018 assassination of dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi -- was the wrong man, French authorities said Wednesday.

Police arrested the man at Charles de Gaulle Airport in the French capital on Tuesday and identified him as Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi, a Saudi man who's one of more than two dozen people wanted for Khashoggi's death.

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Officials said he was wanted on a Turkish warrant and was arrested before he could board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, authorities said the man they arrested at the airport turned out to be someone else.

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Khashoggi disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, 2018, and was later declared dead. He'd gone to the consulate to collect paperwork for his upcoming wedding when he was ambushed by a hit team, police said.

Evidence was later found, including forensic materials, that persuaded investigators that Khashoggi was certainly killed and mutilated. His remains, however, have not yet been found.

Protesters demonstrate outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 19, 2018, to call attention to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
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Police have said al-Otaibi was part of a 15-member team sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi, and he was one of 17 Saudis sanctioned by the United States in connection with the killing.

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It wasn't immediately clear why or how police mistook the man at the airport for al-Otaibi. The Paris General Prosecutor's office issued a brief statement on the update, saying only that the detained man was not the suspect police thought he was.

Saudi officials said shortly after Tuesday's arrest that French police had the wrong person, and that the people involved in Khashoggi's killing are already in prison in Saudi Arabia. Officials had planned to extradite the man to Turkey.

Saudi Arabia has been suspected of ordering Khashoggi's death, as he was a vocal dissident often critical of the government with a high-profile media platform. Khashoggi had worked for multiple news outlets, including The Washington Post.

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The Saudi government has sent several people to prison for Khashoggi's death, but most authorities believe there are more people involve in the case who have not yet been captured. Aside from al-Otaibi, there are 25 suspects wanted on Turkey's arrest warrant.

In February, declassified U.S. intelligence documents suggested that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly approved the operation to kill Khashoggi.

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