Iran is to pardon 10,000 prisoners including political ones in honour of the Iranian new year on Friday, according to state TV.
It was not stated whether the pardons would include the British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – who was released on Tuesday for two weeks, when 85,000 were let out temporarily because of coronavirus – or the British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was not known to have been released.
“A large number of prisoners who have been temporarily freed do not need to return to jail after the leader’s pardon,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili, a judiciary spokesman.
“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail ... almost half of those security-related [political] prisoners will be pardoned as well.
“The unprecedented point is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in jail in 2016. Moore-Gilbert has been held in prison in Tehran for 18 months after being sentenced in a secret trial to 10 years in prison for espionage – a charge she denies.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners over recent years, including citizens of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Lebanon. Tehran denies it holds people on political grounds and has mainly accused foreign prisoners of espionage.
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted calls from the United Nations and the United States for political prisoners, including dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, to be released from Iran’s overcrowded and disease-ridden jails.
Iran said it had 189,500 people in prison, according to a report that the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, submitted to the Human Rights Council in January. They are believed to include hundreds arrested during or after anti-government protests in November.
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