Coronavirus: Iran release 85,000 prisoners to combat spread of infection

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Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, a judiciary spokesman in the country has said.

The number of dead from the illness has reached 853 in the country, where a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected.

Gholamhossein Esmaili added: “Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners…also in the jails, we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak.”

Political prisoners are among the inmates who have been released in the move.

Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said on 10 March he asked Tehran to temporarily free all political prisoners from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails.

The request was aimed at helping to stem the spread of coronavirus in the Middle Eastern country.

The number of dead from the coronavirus has reached 853 in Iran, where a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected.

Iran has one of the worst national outbreaks outside China, where the disease originated from.

Mr Esmaili did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to jail.

Mr Rehman said earlier in March that Iranian prisoners have been infected with the coronavirus.

Many Iranians have ignored calls by the health authorities to stay at home, but the country’s holy Shia Muslim sites and shrines in Tehran and Qom have been closed.

Officials in the country have blamed US sanctions, which were reimposed on Tehran after Washington abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, for hampering their efforts to fight coronavirus.

Tehran has called on other countries to back its call for the lifting of US sanctions.

Iran said last week it had asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5bn (£4bn) in emergency funding to combat the outbreak.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a rival of Iran, has put aside differences to lend support by sending two planes carrying 32 tonnes of medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks.

Iran’s clerical rulers have rejected locking down cities despite the rising death toll and the rate of new cases.

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