Iran pardons 10,000 prisoners in addition to temporarily releasing 85,000 inmates in a bid to halt coronavirus spread
- Iran has already released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave amid virus fears
- The Middle East has 20,000 cases of the coronavirus, most coming from Iran
- Ayatollah Khamenei occasionally pardons prisoners on national holidays
- Among those already released to house arrest is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national long held on internationally criticised charges
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Iran’s top leader will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in an apparent effort to combat the coronavirus, state TV reported Thursday.
As part of steps to curb the spread of the new virus that has killed more than 1,100 people in Iran, the country has already released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave.
The Middle East has some 20,000 cases of the virus, with most in Iran or originating from Iran.
Among those released under house arrest was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national, long held on internationally criticised charges.
Pictured: Female Iranian inmates at the infamous Evin jail, north of Tehran in 2006. A second inmate – who has not been named – has said guards are standing too far away from prisoners to do a head count and that everyone is ill
The notorious high-security Evin prison in Tehran is pictured above. The judiciary said earlier this week that it will release 54,000 prisoners who test negative for the virus
A file photo from 3 March shows Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei making a speech on the coronavirus outbreak in Tehran. Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners in a step to curb the spread of the disease, state media reported today
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
To encourage people to stay at home in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour wrote on social media that the virus infects 50 Iranians on average every single hour and that ‘one dies every 10 minutes .’
‘Make smart decisions about travel, visits and meetings,’ he wrote on Twitter, as highways remained crowded with people traveling to see family ahead of the Iranian New Year on Friday.
State TV quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying that 10,000 prisoners – among them an unknown number of inmates whose cases are political and related to activism or speech – would be granted amnesty under a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the occasion of the new year, called Nowruz.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was also being held in Evin prison, but has now been released on temporary leave and is now under house arrest. She said she had symptoms consistent with coronavirus but is said to be improving
Pictured above is the historic market in Tabriz last week. It was shuttered as Iran went into lockdown over coronavirus, which has been detected in 11,000 people
Occasionally Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, pardons prisoners. Last year, he pardoned more than 50,000 on the 40th anniversary of 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Western nations have urged Iran to release dual nationals and others, alleging they are used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Among those temporarily freed was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in 2016 on charges of trying to topple the government while traveling with her toddler daughter.