A leading Tunisian presidential candidate has announced he will stop campaigning ahead of the final round of elections October 13 because it would create an unfair advantage against his opponent, media magnate Nabil Karoui, who has been imprisoned by authorities since August.
Tunisian state news agency TAP said Saturday that Kais Saied cited "ethical reasons" for stopping any active campaigning.
Saied said he wanted "to remove the ambiguity related to the lack of equal opportunities between the two candidates."
Karoui has been imprisoned since August 23 on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion.
His supporters claim he was jailed on the eve of the elections for political reasons as he was leading the polls.
Interim president Mohamed Ennaceur said on Friday that Karoui’s inability to campaign is affecting the credibility of the elections and the country’s image.
“One of the two candidates who won the first round is in prison and does not have the freedom to campaign or speak to his voters,” Ennaceur said in a brief televised statement.
“We will continue to ask all officials to find an honorable solution that respects the judiciary to overcome the unusual and strange situation,” he said.
In an unexpected development, the head of state news agency TAP, Rachid Kechana, told Reuters a judge approved TAP’s request to interview Karoui in prison.
Courts have rejected Karoui’s plea to be released pending a final verdict four times since his detention. The independent election commission has said he can contest the election so long as he is not found guilty of a crime.
No final verdict in the case appears imminent, however, and Karoui’s continued detention has prompted warnings from local and foreign election monitors that it denies the media mogul a fair playing field in the election.