Arrest does not preclude media magnate from Tunisian presidential race


Tunisian media magnate Nabil Karoui remains in the race for next month’s presidential election despite his arrest, the electoral commission said.

Tunisian police arrested Karoui after a court ordered his detention in a case involving charges of money laundering and tax evasion. His party said the detention was a politically motivated attempt to exclude him from the election race.

A government official rejected that adding it was a judicial matter and nothing to do with government. The electoral commission said Karoui was still in the race.

“As long as there are no changes to his legal status and no final verdict, Nabil Karoui remains a presidential candidate,” Nabil Baffoun, head of the electoral commission, told reporters.

Karoui (56) owner of Nesma TV channel is a frontrunner contesting the September 15 election following the death of 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi – the first head of state to be democratically elected in Tunisia since 2011.

Karoui’s main rival among the 26 candidates is Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Other candidates are former president Moncef Marzouki and Abdel Fattah Mourou, vice president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defence policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.

Karoui founded the Khalil Tounes Foundation in 2017 to fight poverty, the main theme of his campaign.

In June, parliament passed an amendment to its electoral law which would have banned Karoui from running for president. The draft banned candidates who benefit from “charitable associations” or foreign funding a year before an election.

Essebsi had not signed the law before he died, allowing Karoui to run.