Last Tuesday morning, news circulated about the arrest of one of those involved in the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi while he was at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France, based on an international arrest warrant submitted by the Turkish authorities to the international police organisation “Interpol”.
The French authorities had arrested the Saudi “Khalid bin Ayed Al-Otaibi”, a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard, and a member of the Tiger Squad that traveled to kill Khashoggi three years ago inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul in a brutal crime that caused diplomatic crises for Saudi Arabia with the international community.
At first, the news was met with clear approval from various human rights groups, given what this step indicates that justice is inevitable, and that the law is sovereign in Western countries that will not allow the perpetrators to go unpunished, but only 24 hours later, the man was released under the pretext that he was not wanted, but it was “similarity of names”!
The Public Prosecutor in Paris, “Remy Heitz,” confirmed the Saudi hypothesis that the man had nothing to do with the crime, and identity confusion was behind his detention, therefore he was released and allowed to travel.
According to the French statement, when the man’s passport was examined during border procedures, a note issued by Turkey was reported, which led to his arrest, but after extensive investigations and examinations, it was concluded that he was not the wanted person, and that “the identity of the man does not match” with the arrest warrant and he was released,” although Turkish officials confirmed that a man with a passport with the same name and number was part of the team that killed Khashoggi, and that Al-Otaibi himself was in the consul’s home at the time of the crime.
Some may see this as logical, however, this could have been accepted if Interpol was in a different situation, but Interpol’s integrity is at stake and can no longer be trusted after a person accused of torture and arbitrary detention was handed over its leadership; the Emirati General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi.
We are very concerned and we warn that from now on this approach will become Interpol’s policy, to issue red flags against people, but for some reason, and in a certain way, it turns out that they are not wanted and the suspect cannot be kept in detention.
It was not explicitly announced that Interpol intervened directly to release Al-Otaibi, but the arrest warrant that caused his arrest at first, those who revealed that he was the wrong person, was Interpol.
After repeated warnings issued by human rights defenders around the world that impunity will prevail for criminals working for authoritarian regimes, it cannot be ruled out that the election of Al-Raisi had a role in the release of Al-Otaibi.
Even if Al-Raisi had no role in this, the timing of the man’s release raises suspicions, and it happened shortly after Macron visited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the first visit of a Western leader to him after the killing of Khashoggi, which the US and United Nations reports concluded that he issued direct orders to kill Khashoggi.
The international community’s continued attempts to rapprochement with the current Saudi regime, supporting it in covering up its crimes and improving its image, and helping criminals to escape punishment, will make the world a frightening and terrifying place for the regimes’ crimes against opponents, opinion-makers, and activists who will be killed in cold blood without bringing their killers to account.