The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said on Tuesday he had asked Iran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
Javaid Rehman told journalists in Geneva that it is “unfortunate and disturbing” to have political prisoners detained amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Iran’s judiciary chief said on Monday authorities had temporarily freed about 70,000 prisoners to help limit the spread of coronavirus as officials reported hundreds of new infections and dozens more deaths across the country.
But U.N. rapporteur Javaid Rehman said only those serving sentences of less than five years had been freed while political prisoners and others charged with heavier sentences linked to their participation in protest marches remained in jail.
“This is also my worrying concern and therefore I have recommended to the state of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release all prisoners on temporary release…,” he said.
A spokesman later clarified that Rehman was referring only to political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
Rehman also described the pace of the spread of the virus within Iran as “highly disturbing” and criticised containment measures carried out by the authorities.
“In my estimation the state has done too little and too late,” he said, in response to a question about Iran’s handling of the outbreak.
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