Tunisia releases ex-presidential candidate Nabil Karoui, says lawyer

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Tunisia on Tuesday released media mogul and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui from more than half a year in preventive detention over alleged money laundering.

The 57-year-old, smiling and raising his fist, left Mornaguia prison on the outskirts of Tunis in the late afternoon, to be met by his wife and party officials, an AFP reporter said.

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His lawyer Nazih Souii had said a court appeared to have considered that Karoui, leader of the liberal Qalb Tounes party, had been held in custody for longer than the maximum six-month period.

Karoui is a business and media mogul whose party came second in the October 2019 parliamentary election and allied itself with the Ennahdha party, despite his campaign’s opposition to Islamist politics.

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 2020 over the same affair, and began a hunger strike earlier this month in protest at being detained for longer than the six-month pre-trial limit allowed by the law.

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

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