Iran is one of the worst-hit countries by coronavirus pandemic and on March 21, the Iranian authorities announced 123 more virus deaths. Currently, the deadly virus has infected more than 20,600 people and claimed a total of 1,556 deaths in Iran. As per reports, pleas by the Iranian government for citizens to stay at home at the start of the country’s new year have also been ignored.
Iranian authorities have been grappling to contain the spread of the virus, but because the government does not have the resources to provide welfare payments to low-income workers, the authorities appear to be wary of imposing mandatory quarantine. Iran has closed schools, universities and shrines, banned religious-cultural gathering, but has still not announced a ban on traffic. As the death toll has been rising in the country, the officials temporarily also freed at least 85,000 prisoners including political detainees.
According to reports, the judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili had said that only the prisoners who were serving sentences less than five years have been freed, while the political leaders and others who were jailed for charges linked to participation in anti-government protests are still serving sentence. He also said that even in order to contain the drastic spread of COVID-19, precautions have also been taken in jail. Moreover, Esmail has reportedly not mentioned when will the prisoners return to jail.
According to reports, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations in Iran, Javaid Rehman had asked Tehran on March 10 to release all its political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails in order to contain the spread of coronavirus. In the past days, according to activists and rights groups, the Iranian authorities released at least a dozen political prisoners. However, prominent political prisoners still remain in jail.
Moreover, even the United States had said that it would hold directly responsible for any American deaths in jail and had called for the release of dozens of dual nationals and foreigners held mainly for spying. Moreover, the cleric rulers in Iran have also rejected to lock down major cities even as the death toll is rising by the day. However, they have urged Iranians to limit travel ahead of the New Year on March 20.