Tunisian court orders release of jailed presidential candidate

Nabil Karoui is a businessman and owner of the private channel Nessma TV

Tunisia’s top appeals court has ordered the release of jailed presidential candidate Nabil Karoui on Wednesday, four days ahead of the run-off vote, a source in his campaign said.

Karoui was arrested on Aug. 23 on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

He has not been convicted.

The media magnate came second in the first round of Tunisia’s presidential elections in September with 15.58 per cent of the vote against 18.4 per cent for his rival, independent law professor Kais Saied.

Karoui, 56, is expected to leave prison later on Wednesday, the source added.

At least three courts have rejected the campaign’s appeals for his release since his arrest.

Wednesday’s decision comes one day after the campaign called for postponing the run-off vote, to be held on Oct. 13, until he is released from prison.

They said elections should be postponed since Karoui has not been able to campaign across Tunisia or hold direct interviews with the media.

Since the first round, Karoui has been absent from campaigning and TV debates.

His detention casts doubts on the results of the election, as it denies him an equal opportunity in campaigning.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts, is widely seen as the sole democratic success story of the 2010-11 uprisings.

Presidential elections were originally scheduled for November, but were held earlier after Tunisia’s first democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, died in July, five months before the end of his term.

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