|Date: Oct 10, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Tunisian presidential candidate freed before election|
TUNIS: Tunisian presidential candidate and media mogul Nabil Karoui left prison Wednesday after weeks of detention waiting for a verdict in his corruption trial.
Karoui was the runner-up in the first round of the presidential election last month despite being held since Aug. 23 in pretrial detention. He will now face Kais Saied, an independent, in the second round of voting.
Hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside the prison cheered as Karoui departed, hours after an appeals court ruled that he should be released.
Karoui still faces charges of money laundering and tax fraud, which he denies, but no date has been publicly set to hand down a final verdict in the case.
He remains subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.
The release means a televised debate can now take place between Saied and Karoui, who missed Tunisia’s first-ever such event between the 26 candidates who ran in the initial round of the election.
His release could also make it easier for his party, Heart of Tunisia, to negotiate with Ennahda to form a coalition Cabinet, though both have publicly resisted working together.
Exit polls project Ennahda taking first place and Heart of Tunisia second in last Sunday’s separate parliamentary elections.
“His release saved our transition and the situation at the last moment. ... We were in a very difficult moment in Tunisia which really threatened Tunisian democracy,” Karoui’s spokesman Hatem Mliki said.
Last week, interim President Mohamed Ennaceur said Karoui’s detention and inability to campaign had damaged the credibility of the election.