Iran frees 54,000 prisoners to combat spread of coronavirus

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
Unas personas con mascarillas caminan sobre una acera en el centro de Teherán, Irán, el lunes 2 de marzo de 2020. (AP Foto Vahid Salemi)
People walk the streets of Tehran, Iran, wearing facemasks over coronavirus fears. (AP)

Iran has taken steps to battle a spread of coronavirus in crowded jails by temporarily releasing 54,000 prisoners.

There has beeve nearly 3,000 cases of the virus, known as Covid-19, recorded in Iran, with 92 deaths – marking it among the worst-hit countries outside of China.

The country’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, told reporters today that inmates who tested negative and posted bail were being were allowed out of prison.

However, “security prisoners" sentenced to more than five years will not be let out, the spokesman added.

An Iranian man checks the temperature of a person entering an office building in Tehran on March 4, 2020. - Iran has scrambled to halt the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, shutting schools and universities, suspending major cultural and sporting events, and cutting back on work hours. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
An Iranian man checks the temperature of a person entering an office building in Tehran. (Getty)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran since 2016, may be among those granted a temporary release following an outbreak of coronavirus in the prison where she is being held, her local constituency MP has said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released on furlough from the country's notorious Evin prison in Tehran, according to Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq.

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The MP tweeted on Tuesday morning: "News from Iranian Ambassador that my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be released on furlough today or tomorrow from prison in Iran.

"If this is true, Nazanin would welcome leaving Evin jail, but we've been here before.”

She added: "If this furlough happens, the British government has an obligation to make it permanent, and not let her be used as a bargaining chip in the weeks to come.

"I remain concerned that Nazanin has told her family that she has still not been tested for coronavirus.”

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Meanwhile, Friday prayers in Iran have been cancelled across all provincial capitals amid the country's growing coronavirus, state television said.

Friday is the main congregational day of prayer in Islam, and traditionally an important event for Iran's clerical rulers.

LONDON, BEDS, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/06/25: A portrait of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe seen in front of the Iranian Embassy in support of her. Husband of imprisoned Iranian-British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Richard Ratcliffe, now on the 11th day of a hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London. He is acting in solidarity with his wife, who is also refusing to eat in protest at her own unfair imprisonment in Iran on spying charges. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
There are hopes that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from prison in Iran. (Getty)

The report on Wednesday comes as Tehran and other areas cancelled Friday prayers last week over the outbreak.

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Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the new figures at a news conference in Tehran, raising Iran's death toll from the new illness to higher than Italy's, where there has also been a serious spike in infections.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 90,000 people and caused over 3,100 deaths.

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