Mounir Baatour, an openly gay lawyer has announced he will run for president of Tunisia making him the first homosexual to run for office in the Middle East.

Baatour’s candidacy marks ‘a first which will without doubt be a benchmark in history’, his Liberal Party said. Baatour, the party’s chief and a lawyer at the Court of Cassation, presents himself as a defender of LGBTIQ rights.

Ahead of his announcement however, a petition signed by 18 groups who campaign for those rights warned his candidacy would represent a ‘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.

‘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,’ Baatour said.

Presidential hopefuls have until Friday to submit their candidacy, ahead of September 15 polls.

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