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Police arrests Tunisia presidential candidate for money laundering

The leader of the Tunisian opposition party, Lotfi Mraihi, has been arrested by police on suspicion of money laundering, resulting in uproar among citizens about the government’s intentions ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

Mraihi, who heads the Republican Union Party, had announced his intention to run in the October election, challenging President Kais Saied’s expected bid for a second term.

Tunis court spokesman said earlier this week that Mraihi faces charges of money laundering and opening bank accounts abroad without a license from the Tunisian central bank.

Mraihi’s arrest yesterday has drawn condemnation from opposition parties, who see it as a politically motivated move aimed at silencing a prominent critic of the government.

The arrest comes as opposition leaders, including Abir Moussi of the Free Constitutional Party, are already behind bars on various charges, including harming public security.

The government has denied any political motivations behind the arrests, but the opposition remains skeptical. Other candidates, including Safi Saeed, Nizar Chaari, and Abd Ellatif Mekki, are facing prosecution on charges such as fraud and money laundering.

Mondher Znaidi, a potential candidate living in France, is also facing charges of financial corruption. The opposition is calling for the release of imprisoned politicians and an end to government pressure on the media, citing these as essential conditions for fair and credible elections.

President Saied, who has not officially announced his candidacy, is widely expected to seek a second term in office. His seizure of power in 2021, which included dissolving parliament and ruling by decree, was seen as a coup by the opposition.

The arrest of Mraihi and other opposition leaders has raised concerns about the state of democracy in Tunisia ahead of the October election.

The government maintains that its actions are legal and necessary to combat corruption among the political elite. However, the opposition views the arrests and prosecutions as a politically motivated crackdown aimed at silencing dissenting voices and paving the way for Saied’s re-election.

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