As coronavirus ravages Iran, Tehran releases 10,000 prisoners

TEHRAN – On Wednesday, Iranian state television reported that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will release 10,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, on the occasion of Iranian New Year on Friday.

Judiciary spokesperson Gholam Hussein Ismaili stated that those who will be released will not return to prison, adding that half of the prisoners accused of security-related issues will also be released.

Ismaili did not say whether humanitarian worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has dual Iranian-British citizenship, will be among those pardoned. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was temporarily released on Tuesday for two weeks with an ankle bracelet to monitor her movements.

In January, Iran said it was holding 189,500 people in prison in a report submitted to the Human Rights Council by Javed Rahman, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran. This number is supposed to include hundreds of people arrested by the authorities during or shortly after anti-government protests in November.

While Tehran has claimed the pardons are to mark the Iranian New Year, outside observers have speculated the move may be to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 which has devastated the country. There are officially 17,361 known cases and 1,135 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in Iran.