TUNIS: Tunisian police arrested presidential candidate Nabil Karoui last night on what local media said were charges of financial crimes, but his party said it was a politically motivated attempt to exclude him from the election race.
Karoui’s own Nessma TV channel reported he had been arrested as he travelled to Tunis and broadcast a video showing the police detaining him in his car.
The 56-year-old media magnate is one of the main candidates contesting the September 15 election following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi.
A judge ordered the detention of Karoui to face charges of tax evasion and money laundering, Mosaique FM radio reported.
Judicial authorities were not immediately available for comment.
A judge decided in July this year to bar Karoui from travelling abroad after weeks of investigation on suspicion of money laundering.
“The police arrested Karoui while we were on our way back from the city of Beja to Tunis,” said Osama Khelifi, a political adviser to the candidate.
“They kidnapped the most prominent candidate in the presidential election so that (Prime Minister Youssef) Chahed can win the election in an open way,” he added.
Samira Chaouachi, spokeswoman of Karoui’s Heart of Tunisia Party, said it was “a political arrest aimed at keeping Karoui out of the presidential race”.
The prime minister’s office was not available for comment.