03/19/2020, 12.59
IRAN
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Khamenei to pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political activists, for Nowruz

The supreme leader will pardon many prisoners already on temporary release. Almost half of security-related prisoners will be pardoned, judiciary spokesman said.  Iran has more than 189,000 people in jail. Three inmates join Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political activists to mark Nowruz, Iranian New Year, tomorrow.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail ... almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well,” said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

A few days ago, Iranian authorities temporarily freed 85,000 people from jail to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus in prisons.

Nevertheless, the COVID-19 epidemic continues to spread, reaping new victims. The tally now stands at more than 17,000 cases, 1,135 deaths, and more than 4,000 recovered.

“A large number of prisoners who have been temporarily freed do not need to return to jail after the leader’s pardon,” Esmaili said.

“The unprecedented point is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences,” he added.

Esmaili did not say whether this group will include British Iranian-born Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was released on Tuesday for two weeks.

Iran has 189,500 people in prison, this according to a report that the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, submitted to the Human Rights Council in January, including, it seems, hundreds arrested during or after anti-government protests in November.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners over recent years, including citizens of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Lebanon.

Tehran denies it holds people on political grounds, and has mainly accused foreigners of espionage.

Meanwhile, at least three political activists in Tehran’s Evin Prison have joined prominent jailed human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike demanding “freedom for all political prisoners”.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, said that his wife is aware of the dangers of going on hunger strike amid a deadly viral outbreak when Iranian prisons are lacking crucial medicines and sanitary supplies.

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