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Tunisia court keeps presidential runner behind bars3 minutes read

Nabil Karoui remains in custody less than two weeks prior to elections.

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Tunisia’s court of appeal Tuesday rejected a fresh request to free jailed presidential candidate Nabil Karoui, his lawyer said, less than two weeks before the media magnate is expected to contest an election runoff.

“Unfortunately the indictment chamber… refused the release request,” lawyer Kamel Ben Messoud told reporters, after what was the fourth such appeal turned down by the judiciary in the country.

Read Also: Man stabs Tunisian policeman to death in Bizerte

A leader in Karoui’s Qalb Tounes party, Oussama Khlifi, told local media that his continued detention “threatens the democratic process”.

The 56-year-old, who has been under investigation since 2017 for money laundering and tax evasion, was placed in pre-trial detention on August 23 and subsequent applications to release him have been denied.

The timing of his arrest, 10 days before the start of campaigning, raised questions about the politicisation of the judicial process.

In July, an investigating judge froze the assets of Karoui and his brother Ghazi, and imposed a travel ban.

When Karoui appealed against those decisions, the indictment chamber issued an arrest warrant, and he was detained at a motorway toll booth after an election visit.

Despite the legal proceedings, Karoui’s candidacy was approved by the elections commission ISIE and he campaigned via the Nessma television channel he founded and through his wife Salwa Smaoui.

After the first round of voting on September 15, independent law professor Kais Saied led with 18.4 per cent of votes, according to ISIE, with Karoui in second with 15.6 per cent.

Karoui’s party, alongside ISIE, international observers and various politicians have called for the jailed candidate to be allowed to campaign fairly ahead of the second round, expected on October 13.

The International Crisis Group has warned that the continued detention of Karoui “jeopardizes the entire electoral process” and that “the courts could cancel the entire vote”.

The candidate’s spokesman called for the vote to be suspended while the candidate is in prison.

“The second round will take place when Nabil is free,” Hatem Mliki told reporters. “Our political opponents are trying to use every means… to prevent a peaceful transfer of power.”

Read Also: 5 things you should know about parliamentary elections in Tunisia

Karoui’s election rival, Saied, has also called for him to be freed to contest the polls.

Rival ‘morally uncomfortable’

“The situation leaves me morally uncomfortable… I would sincerely like to see him freed,” Saied told national television last week.

Tunisian television is due to broadcast a debate between Karoui and Saied as part of the election campaign. Both ISIE and broadcast regulator HAICA have requested that the judiciary authorise Karoui to take part in that debate.

State television has said it is prepared to organise the debate within prison walls if necessary.

Karoui has remained eligible to run despite his imprisonment, as long as any conviction does not also specifically deprive him of his civil rights, according to ISIE.

Tunisia’s presidential vote was brought forward after the death of the incumbent, Beji Caid Essebsi, on July 25. Parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur took over on an interim basis for a 90-day period. Under the constitution, Ennaceur has to make way for an elected president by October 23.

Millions of Tunisians are also to head to ballot boxes on October 6 to elect parliamentary representatives in a key vote which is, however, being overshadowed by the presidential polls.

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UN condemns use of IEDs against civilians in Libya

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians…,” the UN said.

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A man inspects the wreckage of a car outside the Khadra General Hospital which is dedicated to treating people infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 8, 2020, after it was targeted by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned the use of improvised explosive devices against civilians in the southern part of Tripoli, as the armed conflict between the east-based army and the UN-backed government continues.

UNSMIL “is extremely concerned about reports that residents of the Ain Zara and Salahuddin areas of Tripoli have been killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices placed in or near their homes,” UNSMIL said in a statement Monday.

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians who must be protected under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.

UNSMIL called on all individuals to “seek information and heed security advice to stay away from areas that have not been declared safe to enter by a competent authority or items of unknown origin which may be explosive devices”.

UNSMIL also commended the search and clearance work by Libyan Police and Military Engineers, reaffirming its continued support to Libyan partners, communities, and stakeholders “who are working tirelessly to rid Libya of the threat of explosive remnant of war (ERW)”.

The UN-backed government’s forces accused the rival east-based army of planting mines before withdrawing from conflict areas in southern Tripoli.

Since April 2019, the east-based army has been leading a military campaign attempting to take over Tripoli and topple the UN-backed government.

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Strike looms as public sector wage dispute enters arbitration in South Africa

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The ongoing face-off between workers in the public sector and the South African government continues. According to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), disagreement between the trade unions and government has moved the talks to arbitration for further hearing.

PSCBC General Secretary, Frikkie De Bruin explains that the arbitration hearings will begin by mid-June. An arbitrator will issue an award after the hearings are complete, with the matter potentially heading to court or resulting in a strike if the unions aren’t happy.

Ordinarily, public sector workers make up a third of South Africa’s expenditure. But with the coronavirus lockdown and income reduction, Pretoria seems unwilling to incur more debt.

If not handled carefully to appease the workers, the ruling African National Congress, (ANC) could lose its political dominance in the next local elections.

If no resolution is reached and the workers decide to resolve it an industrial action, it could erode all effort made by the government in the fight against the coronavirus.

The dispute started in February when the government affirmed that it could not fulfil its 2018 agreement on a three-year wage agreement.

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Ethiopia to divest 40% of Ethio Telecom

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The Ethiopian government is finalizing plans to sell a 40 percent stake in Ethio Telecom- the country’s sole telecommunication provider . The plan was announced by Ethiopia’s State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign Tolina.

Ethiopia’s telecommunication industry is considered one of the last closed markets. It has been one of the government’s plans to liberalize the country’s economy launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethio Telecom has a large market serving a population of around 110 million.

The government will retain ownership of the remaining 60 percent.

Foreign firms in the telecom sector will be invited to bid and a percentage of the minority stake will be sold to Ethiopian citizens. South Africa’s MTN and Kenya’s Safaricom have shown interest in expanding into Ethiopia in the past.

Ethiopia’s communications regulator says the country would proceed with the privatisation of the telecommunications sector despite the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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