Saudi man wrongly arrested in France over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi says he felt like he was ‘in a zoo’ during detention
- Khalid al-Otaibi, 33, was arrested in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport on Tuesday
- His arrest came after an Interpol red notice was triggered, identifying him as an ex-member of the Saudi royal guard wanted over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
- Saudi Arabia protested and said the real Al-Otaibi was in prison in their country
- Al-Otaibi was released Wednesday after police realised they had the wrong man
The Saudi man wrongly arrested in France over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has said he felt like he was ‘in a zoo’ during his detention.
Khalid al-Otaibi, looking tired and pale and wearing a black sweater and black cap, was arrested at Paris’s main airport on Tuesday before being released a day later.
‘They took me to a room that is all glass and is used for criminals and has surveillance and does not have good ventilation,’ he told Saudi state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV.
‘I was trying to sleep all night, but I couldn’t because the place was uncomfortable,’ he added. ‘They were watching me like I was in a zoo.’
‘They asked me if I wanted to eat and they gave me water in an unclean cup,’ he said.
Saudi man Khalid al-Otaibi (pictured) who wrongly arrested in France on Tuesday over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has said he felt like he was ‘in a zoo’ during his detention
French police believed they had arrested Al-Otaibi (file image of his passport) on Tuesday morning in Paris, but released him a day later after realising they had the wrong man
Otaibi was the victim of a case of mistaken identity as he shares his name with a man wanted under an international arrest warrant in connection with Khashoggi’s killing.
The other Otaibi is suspected of being part of the hit squad that carried out the murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Khalid al-Otaibi is a common name in Saudi Arabia.
‘I tried to avoid problems,’ the released man said of his ordeal. ‘At the beginning they prevented me from talking to the embassy.
‘In the morning an officer came and the communication became better. Then the embassy came with a lawyer and they took me out.’
The arrest came just days after French President Emmanuel Macron met Saudi crown prince and de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, dismissing suggestions that his visit was effectively endorsing Khashoggi’s murder.
Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist with links to the Saudi royals, was murdered in Istanbul in 2018 and 26 men are currently on trial in absentia in Turkey over his death
Khalid Al-Otaibi is a former member of the Saudi royal guard wanted over the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul (file image, Al-Otaibi in Istanbul airport before the killing)
Khashoggi is seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the day of his killing
Prince Mohammed’s international reputation took a major hit from Khashoggi’s murder as he seeks to position himself as a champion of modernisation and reform.
The crown prince has said he accepts Saudi Arabia’s overall responsibility but denies a personal link, with the kingdom saying it was the work of agents who had gone ‘rogue’.
A security source in Saudi Arabia has said that the real Otaibi was actually in prison in Saudi Arabia, along with ‘all the defendants in the case’.
On Thursday, a Saudi newspaper called for an apology from the French government.
‘The release of the citizen is not a sufficient step to correct Paris’ position,’ the Riyadh newspaper said in an editorial.
‘The matter requires judicial action to compensate the citizen for the psychological and moral damage he has suffered,’ it added.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (pictured) international reputation took a major hit from Khashoggi’s murder as he seeks to position himself as a champion of modernisation and reform