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Tunisian ex-presidential candidate Nabil Karoui rearrested in Algeria

Media tycoon Karoui and his brother Ghazi, who was also arrested, set to be brought before a pre-trial judge on corruption charges, local media reports
Nabil Karoui was also arrested in 2019 and spent most of that year's presidential campaign in jail on the same corruption charges (AFP/File photo)

Tunisian media mogul and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui was arrested on Sunday ahead of a hearing related to charges of money laundering and tax evasion, local media has reported. 

Karoui, who was released from prison in June after being held for months in pre-trial detention, was rearrested in Tebessa, an Algerian town near the border with Tunisia, on Sunday, along with his brother Ghazi, the reports said. 

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The two are expected to be brought before the Tebessa examining magistrate on Monday, according to the Tunisian news website Webdo

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and local Echaab News also confirmed the arrests. Other reports alleged that Karoui and his brother had entered Algeria illegally. 

The media mogul and chief executive set up one of the offices of his company Karoui & Karoui, a global communication and media agency, in Algiers in the early 2000s.

Repeated arrests

Arrested in December, a court of cassation ruled in June to free Karoui, who is also the founder and president of Qalb Tounes, the nation's second-biggest party in parliament, while he continued to face trial for alleged money laundering and tax evasion.

At the time, the court said Karoui had been held in custody for longer than the maximum six-month period.

A week before his release the media mogul - who has insisted that his charges are purely political - began a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Karoui, 57, was a frontrunner in the 2019 presidential race, appealing to the North African country's poorest at a time when Tunisia was mired in political deadlock and economic struggles.

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Arrested that same year on the same charges, he spent most of 2019's presidential campaign in jail.

He was released days before the 2019 runoff vote, which he lost in a landslide to Kais Saied, a retired constitutional law professor. 

Since becoming president, Saied has dismissed his prime minister and assumed executive authority in a move opponents have branded as a coup.

Earlier this week he extended the indefinite suspension of parliament - later calling the body a "threat to the state". 

Last week, the former head of Tunisia's anti-corruption watchdog was placed under house arrest after security forces also took control of the independent body's building. 

Tunisia has also banned 12 officials from leaving the country, including a former minister, on suspicion of corruption in the phosphate sector.

Tunisia's interior ministry has also placed Anouar Maarouf, a senior official in the Ennahda party, under house arrest. 

Maarouf is a former minister of communications technology and the first Ennahda official to be placed under house arrest since Saied's power grab.