Chiamaka Ihekwoaba

Chiamaka Ihekwoaba

Tunisia’s presidential hopeful might extend his hunger-strike in jail

Tunisian businessman cum politician, Nabil Karoui, who was detained last month on charges of money laundering and tax fraud will remain in custody after failing to win an appeal to be freed. He denies all charges.

The 56-year-old who was permitted to run despite his arrest reached the final stage in the run-off election. However, according to his lawyer Kamel Ben Messoud he was not allowed to vote because the judge has refused to give a ruling, saying it was not in his jurisdiction.

It is still unclear when the media mogul would be released because this is the third time he has had an appeal turned down. Sadly, Karoui who began a hunger strike in jail earlier this month to demand his freedom will continue his hunger strike.

During the beginning of the Tunisian Revolution when the government refused the media from reporting on the unrest. Karoui used his position at Nessma to begin a political debate on the ongoing protests, providing some viewers with their first information on local media about the protests. Karoui has never held political office, however, his political debates, his charity and his media business have given him leverage even though critics have accused him of using these to further his political ambitions.

In 2016, a Non-Governmental Organization, I-Watch, accused Karoui of money laundering and embezzlement through a foreign shell company. By 2017, a recording showing Karoui attacking the organization, calling them “traitors”, “foreign agents” and calling on his staff to file false reports against them was leaked.

Three years later on July 8, Karoui and his brother Ghazi were charged with money laundering around the 2016 allegations. Their assets were frozen and both were forbidden from leaving the country. A warrant was issued by the Tunis Court of Appeal and Karoui was arrested on August after which the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication and the Independent High Authority for Elections forbade his television station, Nessma from covering the 2019 Tunisian presidential election.

Presidential elections were held in Tunisia on September 15 but when no candidate received a majority of the vote in the first round, a runoff was scheduled to be held on September 29. Before now, the elections were scheduled to hold on November 17 and 24 but after the death of incumbent president Beji Caid Essebsi, it was moved up to July 25.