Iran temporarily frees 54,000 prisoners to combat coronavirus spread, hope for jailed British-Iranian charity worker

Iran temporarily frees 54,000 prisoners to combat coronavirus spread, hope for jailed British-Iranian charity worker
Source: BBC

More than 54,000 prisoners in Iran have been temporarily allowed to leave prison after testing negative for the novel coronavirus and settling their bail.

However, according to judiciary spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, those sentenced to more than five years in jail will not be freed.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be released soon

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that the jailed British-Iranian charity worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, may be set free soon.  

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq tweeted that the jailed charity worker may be released on furlough soon. “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. 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. #FreeNazanin,” tweeted Siddiq on March 3.

Siddiq has also said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been displaying symptoms associated with the coronavirus and has not yet been tested. Iran, however, claims that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been tested negative.

Adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader dies

Iran currently has the most coronavirus deaths reported outside of China. Seventy-seven people in Iran have died from the coronavirus as of March 3. A total of 2,336 cases have been reported in the Islamic republic, with 23 parliament members confirmed to have contracted coronavirus.

The death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi on March 2 makes him the highest-ranking official in Iran to have died from the coronavirus. He was Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s senior adviser. Mirmohammadi had been a member of Khamenei’s Expediency Council since 2017.

Another Iranian official, Iran’s first-ever ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosroshahi, succumbed to the virus after testing positive in late February.

China, the country where the coronavirus originated, has sent its experts to Tehran in efforts to assist the Middle Eastern country to combat the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reportedly sent a technical team to Iran on March 2, together with a shipment of medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, and thousands of laboratory kits to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people.