Tunisian presidential candidate still detained


A Tunisian appeals court upheld the detention of media magnate Nabil Karoui, a candidate in this month’s presidential election, on suspicion of tax fraud and money laundering, his lawyer said.

Karoui denies any wrongdoing and sought to be freed, but the court rejected the demand, lawyer Kamel Ben Massoud told Reuters without giving details.

Karoui, owner of Nesma TV channel, is a prominent candidate in the September 15 election along with current and past prime ministers, a former president, the defence minister and the representative of a major Islamist party.

He is running as a campaigner against poverty in a country where economic troubles caused widespread frustration despite the transition to democracy since the 2011 revolution.

Karoui founded a charity to combat poverty in 2017 and then set up a political party, leading critics to accuse him of using his foundation to advance his political ambitions, which he denies.

In June, parliament passed an amendment to the electoral law forbidding candidates who benefited from “charitable associations” or foreign funding in the year before an election, which would have banned him from the race.

Late president Beji Caid Essebsi died in July without signing the law, meaning Karoui was free to enter the election.

His political party called his detention a politically motivated attempt to bar him from the race, though government officials said it is a judicial matter.

Tunisia’s electoral commission kept him on the list of candidates after his arrest last month.

Despite Karoui still in detention, his party launched his presidential campaign with a rally on Monday. On Tuesday, supporters gathered outside the court to demand he be freed.