Jailed Tunisian presidential candidate Karoui to be freed

TUNIS, Tunisia – A Tunisian presidential candidate who has been in jail since August was expected to be freed Wednesday, four days before the runoff election, judicial and party officials said.

Nabil Karoui, a media mogul under investigation for money laundering and tax fraud, has been pressing along with his party to be set free so he can campaign on an equal footing with his rival. He says the charges are politically motivated.

Karoui is facing independent law professor Kais Saied in the presidential runoff election on Sunday. Saied has said he wouldn’t campaign as long as his rival was in jail.

An official in the prosecutor’s office said the Court of Cassation, the highest court, had ordered Karoui freed immediately, a report confirmed by two party press officials, Insaf Boughdiri and Jaouhar Mghribi.

News of Karoui’s impending release came hours before Tunisia’s electoral body was to announce the final results in the country’s parliamentary vote last weekend.

Polls suggested this North African nation’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda had a small victory in the parliamentary vote – with Karoui’s populist Heart of Tunisia party just behind.

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This story corrects the spelling of the presidential candidate’s name to Karoui, not Karaoui.

Bouazza Ben Bouazza, The Associated Press