Khashoggi case: RSF filed confidential criminal complaint in 2019 against murder suspect arrested in Paris

The arrest of Khaled al-Otaibi, a former member of the Saudi royal guard, in Paris today on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is excellent news. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) targeted Otaibi in a criminal complaint it filed with the Paris prosecutor’s office in 2019. RSF reactivates the proceeding immediately.

Update: the Saudi individual arrested yesterday was released on 8 December after the prosecutor's office verified his identity and confirmed that he was a homonym. RSF remains fully committed to ensuring that all those involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are brought to justice before an independent judiciary.

Otaibi was arrested at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkey, which suspects him of participating in Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. But he was also the target of the complaint for murder, torture and enforced disappearance that RSF filed in Paris in October 2019.

RSF maintained complete confidentiality about this complaint in order to improve the chances of Otaibi’s arrest during a visit to France. The case was eventually closed by the prosecutor’s office in the absence of any indication of his presence in France. RSF will reactivate the proceeding in the coming hours and file a new criminal complaint as a civil party, so that a judge can be appointed to investigate the crimes reported by RSF.

“It is excellent news that the French police did not turn a blind eye to the presence in France of Khaled al-Otaibi, a suspected member of the team that carried out the Khashoggi murder, and that they went ahead and arrested him,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Finally, one of the protagonists will be able to talk. Until now, we’ve had only a sham trial behind closed doors in Saudi Arabia and proceedings in Turkey with no defendants aside from secondary figures. We call on the French judiciary to keep him in France for as long as it takes to shed light on his involvement in the crimes of which he is suspected.”

RSF listed the reasons for targeting Otaibi in the complaint it filed in France. The information gathered by UN special rapporteur in her report on the Khashoggi murder, the fact that he was arrested by Saudi Arabia for his role in the murder, and his identification by the United States as one of the suspects all point to his being a member of the team that killed Khashoggi.

RSF also filed a criminal complaint in Germany in March 2021 against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, several of his advisers and “any other person identified by the investigation,” accusing them of crimes against humanity by persecuting Saudi journalists including Khashoggi. This complaint included details concerning Otaibi.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th on RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 08.12.2021