Tunisia: Nabil Karoui hospitalised after remand-opposing hunger strike

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Former presidential candidate and leader of the Qalb Tounès party, Nabil Karoui is protesting against his continued detention.

Nabil Karoui, leader of a liberal party that came second in Tunisia’s 2019 presidential election, was hospitalised for three days after starting a hunger strike to protest against his continued detention on remand, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

“The doctor asked that Mr Karoui be transferred to hospital because of his state of health” and he is undergoing tests after being admitted on Monday evening, Mohsen Dali, spokesman for the Tunis Court of First Instance, told AFP.

Nabil Karoui, head of the Qalb Tounès party and member of the government coalition, is protesting against his continued detention beyond the legal deadline in a money-laundering investigation and is demanding his release.

According to the party, the founder of Tunisia’s main private channel Nessma TV (partly owned by a former Italian head of state Silvio Berlusconi) has been held “illegally” since the maximum period of pre-trial detention, which is six months in Tunisia, expired on 5 May and can only be extended by decision of a judge.

Prosecuted in 2017 in a case of money laundering and tax fraud, Nabil Karoui was arrested in 2019. He had then spent more than a month in prison in the middle of the electoral campaign, which had led to fears of an instrumentalisation of justice.

Released, he was arrested again last December and has been in pre-trial detention since then for the same case.

Nabil Karoui, whose programme for the presidential election was focused on anti-Islamism and the fight against poverty, was largely defeated by Kaïs Saied, an academic and political novice, against a backdrop of rejection of the ruling elites since the 2011 revolution.