Tunisian presidential candidate to stay in jail despite election success

Tunisian presidential candidate to stay in jail despite election success
A jailed Tunisian media mogul who has reached the runoff round of presidential elections is to stay in prison after a judge said he could not release him.
2 min read
18 September, 2019
A judge said he ‘did not have jurisdiction’ to release presidential candidate Nabil Karoui [Getty]

A fresh appeal for the release of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui who has reached the runoff round of Tunisia's presidential polls was turned down on Wednesday, his lawyers said.

"The judge has refused to give a ruling, saying it was not in his jurisdiction," lawyer Kamel Ben Messoud said, after requesting his release the previous day.

"We will appeal," he told AFP.

The court did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, is under investigation for alleged money laundering and has been in pretrial detention since August 23.

Lawyer Nazih Souii said it was the third time a judge had said the matter was beyond his jurisdiction.

The court of appeals refused to pass judgement on September 3, as did the court of cassation on September 13.

Tunisia's electoral commission, ISIE, has confirmed Karoui made it to the presidential runoff along with law professor Kais Saied following Sunday's first round vote.

Karoui came in second place in the first round of the presidential elections, with 15.6% of the vote, while Saied received the largest number of votes, with 18.4%.

Karoui remains eligible to run despite his imprisonment, as long as any conviction does not also specifically deprive him of his civil rights, according to ISIE.

He campaigned through the Nessma television channel he founded. ISIE has said it is investigating alleged electoral violations, including by Nessma TV.

Depending on potential appeals, the second round could be staged on October 6, the same day as legislative elections, or on October 13, ISIE said.

Observers from the European Union said the first round has been "transparent".

But it called for the candidates to have the "same opportunities" to campaign, in an apparent allusion to Karoui.

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