Date: Sep 30, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Tunisia presidential runner calls for rival to be freed
Agence France Presse
TUNIS: One of two presidential candidates to have won through to a runoff election in Tunisia has called for his rival to be released from prison.

“The situation leaves me morally uncomfortable ... I would sincerely like to see him freed,” law professor Kais Saied said in an interview on national television late Thursday, referring to Nabil Karoui.

Saied and media mogul Karoui were the two candidates to emerge from the first round of a presidential vote held on Sept. 15, despite the latter being arrested in a money-laundering probe ahead of the campaign.

Saied topped the first round with 18.4 percent of votes, according to the elections commission ISIE, while Karoui came in second with 15.6 percent, out of a field of more than 20 candidates.

Under investigation for a complaint lodged in 2016, Karoui was arrested days before the start of campaigning, prompting accusations that the timing was a manipulation of justice - a charge vehemently denied by premier Youssef Chahed.

Chahed likewise stood for the presidency in the Sept. 15 poll, but was knocked out of the running.

The second round is due to take place in mid-October and a debate between Karoui and Saied is meant to air as part of the campaign.

Both ISIE and broadcast regulator HAICA have requested that the judiciary authorize Karoui to take part in that debate. There has been no response from the judiciary.

State television has said it is prepared to organize the debate within prison walls, if necessary.

Several foreign observer missions and defeated first round candidates have similarly called for Karoui to be allowed to campaign freely for the second round.

A decision on his possible release is expected next week.