Jailed Tunisian presidency front-runner starts hunger strike

Najiba Karoui, center, mother of Tunisia's jailed presidential candidate Nabil Karoui who faces corruption charges, stands before his sister Rim, center behind, and other supporters with his election poster while campaigning for him in the northern city of Bizerte on Thursday. — AFP

TUNIS — Tunisian media mogul Nabil Karoui, a front-runner in Sunday's presidential election, has started a hunger strike in prison demanding to be allowed to vote, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Karoui, 56, owner of the Nesma TV channel, was detained three weeks ago on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering.

His main rival, among 26 candidates, is Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Other candidates include Defense Minister Abd el Karim Zbidi, former President Moncef Marzouki, and Abdel Fattah Mourou, vice president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

"Karoui started an open-ended hunger strike since Wednesday to demand his right to vote on Sunday," his lawyer Ridha Belhadj said.

Authorities were not immediately available for comment.

A court of appeal is due on Friday to hear Karoui's request to be released pending a final verdict in his case. — Reuters