Tunisia party demands release of detained chief Karoui

Tunisia party demands release of detained chief Karoui
The Qalb Tounes political party on Thursday urged the release of the group's leader Nabil Karoui.
2 min read
Karoui is in detention in Tunisia [Getty]

Tunisia's Qalb Tounes party, a member of the governing coalition, on Thursday demanded the release of its leader and media tycoon Nabil Karoui, who is in custody over money laundering allegations.

Party lawmaker Oussama Khlifi told a news conference in parliament that Karoui was "hostage" to a "political ploy" and that his preventive detention since December exceeded the legal time of 23 days.

According to Tunisian law, suspects can be held in preventive detention for up to six months. A judge can extend the time but the suspect has a right to appeal.

Karoui is a business and media mogul whose party came second in October 2019 parliamentary elections and allied itself with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party. President Kais Saied has accused the two parties of corruption.  

During Karoui's presidential election campaign that same year, he spent more than a month in prison over money laundering and tax evasion charges stemming from a 2017 investigation.

Live Story

He was arrested again in December last year over the same affair.

"We call for the immediate liberation of Nabil Karoui and an end to political harassment and forced detention," Khlifi told reporters.

Karoui is the founder of private channel Nessma TV, partly owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. 

Last month, a Tunisian court has ordered detained tycoon and one-time presidential candidate Nabil Karoui to pay a six million-euro fine for failing to pay customs dues.

"The Tunis court of first instance has sentenced (Karoui) to a fine of 19.5 million dinars," prosecution spokesman Mohsen Dali said.

The case, opened in 2012, concerns "failure to make customs declarations on revenues from export operations", Dali said, without giving details.

Karoui was released in February on a bail of 10 million dinars, but he did not pay it and was arrested again two weeks later. 

His supporters say his human rights have been violated and his case has been used for political ends.