TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A lawyer for a jailed presidential candidate in Tunisia said his client has started a hunger strike to defend his right to take part in Sunday's election.

In a statement published Thursday on Facebook, lawyer Ridha Belhaj said he met with Nabil Karoui, who was jailed Aug. 23 pending an investigation into alleged money laundering and tax evasion charges.

Polls show Karoui, co-owner of private TV station Nessma TV, among the favorites in the Sept. 15 first round vote in the North African nation's presidential election, which involves 26 candidates. His supporters claim putting him in jail is a political decision that aims to ruin his chances.

Tunisian authorities denied interfering, saying it was an independent justice decision.

The electoral commission says Karoui can remain a presidential candidate as long as he hasn't been convicted.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.