Tunisian presidential candidate Karoui to stay in jail: Lawyer

Karoui's lawyer said court rejected appeal to release runoff candidate for the third time.

    Karoui, who was arrested in August on money laundering and tax evasion charges, finished second behind Saied in Sunday's election.
[Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]
    Karoui, who was arrested in August on money laundering and tax evasion charges, finished second behind Saied in Sunday's election. [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

    A Tunisian court has turned down a request to release jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, who, along with academic Kais Saied, has advanced to a runoff in Tunisia's presidential election.

    Karoui, who was arrested in August on money laundering and tax evasion charges, finished second behind Saied in Sunday's election.

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

    This is the third time that a court rejected an appeal to release Karoui - the court of appeals refused to pass judgement on September 3, as did the court of cassation on September 13, citing the same reason.

    Before his incarceration, the Parliament, in June, passed controversial amendments to the electoral law that would have barred Karoui from the race.

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    The changes would have prevented the 56-year-old from running in the hotly contested election on account of his ownership of Nessma TV, one of the country's most popular channels, where he was regularly filmed handing out food and medical aid to the country's poorer populations.

    President Beji Caid Essebsi failed to ratify the law before he died in late July. 

    Karoui's supporters have since accused the government of pressuring judicial authorities to block his release, allegations authorities have consistently refuted.

    Depending on potential appeals, the second round could be staged on October 6, the same day as legislative elections, or on October 13, according to the electoral commission which added Karoui remained eligible to run despite his imprisonment, as long as any conviction does not also specifically deprive him of his civil rights.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies