News ID: 268014
Published: 0157 GMT April 21, 2020

Iran temporarily releases 1,000 foreign prisoners as coronavirus precaution

Iran temporarily releases 1,000 foreign prisoners as coronavirus precaution

Iran’s Judiciary said on Tuesday that it has temporary released more than 1,000 foreign prisoners due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“What Iran has done in guaranteeing prisoners’ health and granting furlough to them is a significant move” compared with what other countries have done, said Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili.

A panel of UN human rights experts last week called on Iran to expand the list of prisoners it has temporarily released over the COVID-19 outbreak to include “dual and foreign nationals.”

It also raised concerns about the spread of the virus in detention facilities, claiming that “Iran’s prisons have long-standing hygiene, overcrowding and healthcare problems.”

In response, Esmaeili said the experts should report what “America and Britain have done regarding their detainees.”

“We have granted furlough to over 1,000 foreign nationals... some of these countries’ nationals were among them, too,” he told a news conference.

“We have not seen any reports of furloughs or assistance to detainees from the countries” making such claims against Iran, he said.

The Judiciary spokesman said Iran should not be criticized for “discriminatory conduct” as it has an “excellent” track record.

The 100,000 — mainly Iranian — prisoners released temporarily last month were freed initially until April 19, when authorities extended their furlough until May 20.

British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, arrested in 2016 and serving a five-year jail term for sedition, was among 100,000 prisoners temporarily released in March.

Her leave had been extended until May 20, her lawyer told state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.

The Judiciary also announced last month that 10,000 prisoners would be released in an Iranian New Year amnesty.

The move aimed to “reduce the number of prisoners in light of the sensitive situation in the country,” Esmaeili said at the time, without explicitly referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Islamic Republic does not recognize dual nationality and has lashed out at foreign governments for interfering in domestic cases.

“We do not recognize dual citizenship, and our criteria for granting leave are the type of crime, the time served, the potential risks that an individual can pose to the society, and the eligibility to parole,” Esmaeili said.


Many businesses reopen

The Health Ministry on Tuesday announced 88 new deaths from the novel coronavirus.

According to ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, the latest fatalities in the past 24 hours brought the total to 5,297, in one of the world's deadliest outbreaks.

Jahanpour said an additional 1,297 cases of COVID-19 infection detected in the past 24 hours brought the overall total to 84,802.

But more than 60,900 of those admitted to hospital had already recovered, he said, describing it as a "significant" number.

Iran had so far carried out more than 365,700 COVID-19 tests, the ministry official said.

The government has been struggling to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus since reporting its first cases on February 19.

Iran has allowed businesses to reopen after shutting most of its economy down in mid-March, except those with "high-risk" like restaurants and gyms.

Officials have urged Iranians to refrain from using public transportation as they go back to work and lifted some traffic restrictions in the capital Tehran.

Tehran city council's transportation deputy Mohammad Alikhani said Tuesday that so far 19 taxi drivers have died from the virus and 317 have been infected.

He added that 147 bus drivers and "between 40 to 50" metro workers had also been infected.

AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.




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