- “The unprecedented point is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences.”
- The UN and the US have called for the release of political prisoners from Iran’s crowded and disease-ridden jails.
- Iran was said to have 189,000 people in the prisons.
Iran will pardon 10,000 prisoners ahead of the Iranian new year to be marked on Friday. According to state television, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khemenei, will pardon the prisoners, including political detainees. “Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” a government statement reads.
“Almost half of those security related prisoners will be pardoned as well,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told the state television. “The unprecedented point is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences.”
Another 85,000 prisoners were temporarily released on Tuesday, including a British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. “A large number of prisoners who have been temporarily freed do not need to return to jail after the leader’s pardon,” the judiciary spokesman said. It wasn’t clear whether the British-Iranian aid worker would be among those to be pardoned. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to a five-year jail term in 2016.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations and the United States have called for the release of political prisoners, including dozens of dual nationalities and foreigners from Iran’s crowded and disease-ridden jails. More than 8,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Iran, with more than 290 deaths.
“A number of dual and foreign nationals are at real risk if they have not . . . got it, they are really fearful of the conditions,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur in Iran. “This is 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 added. Rehman especially raised concerns about the fate of human rights activists, such as Narges Mohammadi.
According to a report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, which was submitted to the Human Rights Council in January, Iran was said to have 189,000 people in the prisons. The detainees are believed to include hundreds arrested during or after anti-government protests in November.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners over the recent years, including citizens of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Lebanon, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands. Tehran says it has mainly accused foreign prisoners of espionage, denying the allegation that it holds people on political grounds. Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting dual nationals so as to win concessions from other countries, allegations that the Islamic Republic has regularly dismissed.
Last year, Iran released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years for spying charges. In 2019, Iran also released Nizzar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman with US permanent residency, after four years in prison. There has been friction between long-time foes, Iran and United States, since 2018, when Washington quit Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers and re-imposed sanctions that crippled Tehran’s economy.