Tunisian court releases ex-presidential candidate Nabil Karoui from jail

His lawyer Nazih Souii said the court appears to have considered that Karoui, leader of the liberal Qalb Tounes party, had been held in custody for longer than the maximum six-month period allowed by the law.
Wednesday 16/06/2021
Tunisia’s former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui waves to well wishers as he leaves the prison in Tunis following his release on June 15, 2021. (AFP)
Tunisia’s former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui waves to well wishers as he leaves the prison in Tunis following his release on June 15, 2021.(AFP)

TUNIS -- A Tunisian court on Tuesday released former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui from more than half a year in preventive detention over alleged money laundering.

The 57-year-old, smiling and raising his fist, left Mornaguia prison on the outskirts of Tunis in the late afternoon, to be met by his wife and party officials.

His lawyer Nazih Souii said the court appears to have considered that Karoui, leader of the liberal Qalb Tounes party, had been held in custody for longer than the maximum six-month period allowed by the law.

The former presidential candidate was detained in December for a second time for alleged money laundering and tax fraud.

He is the owner of private channel Nessma TV and head of the Qalb Tounes political party, the second largest in parliament. Qalb Tounes allied itself with the Islamist Ennahda Movement, despite Karoui’s declared opposition during his campaign to political Islam.

President Kais Saied has accused the two parties of corruption.

During Karoui’s presidential election campaign in 2019, he spent more than a month in prison over money laundering and tax evasion charges stemming from a 2017 investigation.

Karoui, however, beat most candidates to reach a run-off for the presidency, ultimately losing in a landslide to Saied.

He was arrested again in December 2020 over the same affair and began a hunger strike earlier this month in protest at being detained for longer than the six-month pre-trial limit allowed by the law.

Qalb Tounes on Monday put out a statement in which it expressed deep concern about the deterioration of the health of Karoui and his transfer to hospital.

Lawyer Ramzi Ben Deya said members of the defence lawyers’ team revealed to the court many violations that have marred the case of their client.