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Tunisia refuses to release presidential candidate

Supporters of presidential candidate Nabil Karoui rally asking for his release from prison in Tunis, Tunisia on 3 September 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Supporters of presidential candidate Nabil Karoui call for his release from prison in Tunis, Tunisia on 3 September 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia’s judiciary yesterday rejected a request to release presidential hopeful Nabil Karoui.

According to Nessma TV, Karoui’s defence team submitted a request for his release after he obtained sufficient votes to run in the second round of the presidential elections, against Kais Saied.

Karoui was arrested on 23 August, days before the after Independent High Authority for Elections announced the final list of presidential candidates. He is charged with tax evasion and money laundering and is being detained because authorities believe he is a flight risk.

In July, 56-year-old Karoui, who heads the Heart of Tunisia party, was banned from travelling, his assets were frozen and he was charge with money laundering. As he has not yet faced trial his application to run in the election was approved.

“We are facing an unprecedented case in Tunisia,” Ibrahim Bousalah, assistant prosecutor general of the Court of Appeal, told AFP last week.

READ: How two political outsiders defied all predictions in Tunisia’s second free elections

“In case he wins, we will be dealing with an unprecedented legal impasse in the country,” Bousalah added. “If Karoui remains in prison or is released on probation, the problem will remain, because he has not been tried and the case has not been resolved.”

“If he is elected president, he will not enjoy presidential immunity, because it is not retroactive, and I can’t imagine what will happen. I can only make hypotheses. I guess the judges will face terrible pressure,” he argued.

“We are enforcing the law,” clarified Bousalah.

“If we want to criticise the process of arresting Karoui, we must criticise the legal texts and not the one who implemented them.”

Karoui has said he has been subjected to a “smearing” campaign ahead of the elections.

OPINION: How two political outsiders defied all predictions in Tunisia’s second free elections

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