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Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui to spend election day in prison

Court of appeal rejects appeal over Karoui's arrest last month on money laundering charges
Nabil Karoui submits his candidacy for the presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia on 2 August (Reuters)

Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui will remain in prison for Sunday's election after his appeal against an arrest warrant issued against him was turned down, his Qalb Tounes party said on Friday.

Karoui was arrested on money laundering charges on 23 August but he has been cleared to compete in Sunday's first-round vote by Tunisia's electoral commission.

"The court of appeal has declared it does not have jurisdiction (over the case)... and therefore it has turned down the appeal against the arrest warrant for Nabil Karoui," Qalb Tounes said in a statement.

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"He will remain in prison," the media mogul's lawyer Kamel Ben Massoud told Reuters. 

Karoui, a media mogul who is considered to be one of the frontrunners for the presidency, denies wrongdoing and says the case against him is politically motivated.

Following Karoui's arrest, Tunisia’s electoral and media authorities banned his popular Nessma TV, as well as two other stations, from reporting on the presidential campaign, accusing them of broadcasting without licences.

Karoui has been under investigation since being accused of tax fraud by an anti-corruption watchdog in 2016.

At a presidential TV debate on Saturday night an empty space was reserved for Karoui.

"Tonight I am deprived of my constitutional right to express myself in front of the Tunisian people," Karoui wrote on Twitter.

"They dare to speak of democratic and transparent elections despite the absence of the basic principle of equal opportunities."