One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.
RTL said Khaled Aedh Alotaibi arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Alotaibi was arrested at Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris on Tuesday, a police source told the BBC.
He is one of 26 Saudis wanted by Turkey over the journalist’s killing.
The 33-year-old former Saudi royal guard was travelling under his own name and was placed in judicial detention, RTL radio said.
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the government in Riyadh, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Saudi Arabia said the former Washington Post journalist had been killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to persuade him to return to the kingdom.
The murder caused a global uproar and damaged the image of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He has denied any role.
A Saudi court convicted eight unnamed people over the murder in 2019. Five of them were found guilty of directly participating in the killing and handed death sentences that were later commuted to 20-year prison terms, while three others were jailed for seven to 10 years for covering up the crime.
The Saudi trial was dismissed as “the antithesis of justice” by then-UN Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard.
In a damning report released in 2019, Ms Callamard concluded that Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution” for which the Saudi state was responsible.
Ms Callamard’s report said Saudi prosecutors ordered the arrest of Mr Alotaibi as part of an investigation into Khashoggi’s murder but ultimately decided not to charge him.
He was seen in the presence of Crown Prince Salman during a 2017 visit to the US, the report said.
It sais Alotaibi arrived in Istanbul on 2 October and that he was inside the Saudi consul general’s residence during the murder of Khashoggi, and not inside the consulate.
Saudi Arabia had rejected a request to extradite Mr Alotaibi to Turkey, where he is being tried in absentia in Istanbul on a murder charge.
But on Tuesday, a police source confirmed French authorities had executed Turkey’s arrest warrant. Mr Alotaibi was arrested as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital.
In a tweet, Ms Callamard said the arrest “could be a major breakthrough in the quest for justice”.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi, who went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on 2 October 2018.
He was attempting to obtain papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Ms Cengiz.
She accompanied him to the entrance of the consulate and waited for more than 10 hours outside the building for Khashoggi, who never re-emerged.
Additional information from the BBC and Reuters