Tunisia party demands release of detained chief Karoui

AFP , Thursday 27 May 2021

Tunisia's Qalb Tounes party, a member of the governing coalition, on Thursday demanded the release of its leader and media tycoon Nabil Karoui, who is in custody over money laundering allegations.

Party lawmaker Oussama Khlifi told a news conference in parliament that Karoui was "hostage" to a "political ploy" and that his preventive detention since December exceeded the legal time of 23 days.

According to Tunisian law, suspects can be held in preventive detention for up to six months. A judge can extend the time but the suspect has a right to appeal.

Karoui is a business and media mogul whose party came second in October 2019 parliamentary elections and allied itself with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party. President Kais Saied has accused the two parties of corruption.

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

He was arrested again in December last year over the same affair.

"We call for the immediate liberation of Nabil Karoui and an end to political harassment and forced detention," Khlifi told reporters.

Karoui is the founder of private channel Nessma TV, partly owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

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