Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners in response to the coronavirus epidemic, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday,
The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected across the country, one of the worst national outbreaks outside China, where the new virus originated.
“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners. Also in the jails, we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” spokesman Gholam Hussein Esmaili said.
He did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to jail.
On March 10, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
Many Iranians have ignored calls by the health authorities to stay at home but the establishment have closed the country’s holy Shi’ite Muslim sites and shrines in Tehran and Qom, the epicentre of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak.
Officials have blamed the U.S. sanctions, reimposed on Tehran since Washington quit Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with six powers, for hampering Tehran’s fight against the coronavirus.
Tehran has called on other countries to back its call for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. Sources told Reuters on Monday that Washington was unlikely to ease sanctions on Iran despite an appeal from China that it does so because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Iran said it had asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency funding to combat the outbreak.