An openly gay lawyer Mounir Baatour has announced his intention to join in the presidency bid in Tunisia’s upcoming election.
His declaration brings the total number of candidates that presented their bid on Wednesday to 56.
With this, Baatour becomes the first gay man in the Arab world to embark on such a journey.
According to his running platform, Liberal Party, his candidacy “will, without doubt, be a benchmark in history”.
Baatour, the party’s chief and a lawyer at the Court of Cassation, presents himself as a defender of LGBTIQ rights.
However, ahead of his announcement, a petition signed by 18 groups who campaign for those rights warned that his candidacy would represent “danger” for their communities.
Baatour was jailed for three months in 2013 for “sodomy” with a 17-year-old student, which he has always denied.
Having a criminal record does not automatically ban Tunisians from standing in elections.
Baatour considers himself a capable candidate with the interest of Tunisians at heart. He said, “the fact that I’m gay doesn’t change anything. It’s a candidacy like all the others.
“I have an economic, social, cultural and educational programme for everything that affects Tunisians in their daily lives.”
Presidential hopefuls have until Friday to submit their candidacy, ahead of September 15 polls.
Baatour is co-founder of the Shams association, through which he has for years campaigned against Tunisia’s criminalisation of “sodomy” which carries a sentence of up to three years.
Last month’s petition against his potential candidacy was signed by numerous organisations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer rights.
“We think that Mr Baatour represents not only a threat but also a huge danger for our community,” the petition read.
The country’s presidential election has been scheduled for September 15.
The election will bring to the office a successor to late Beji Caïd Essebsi.