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Iran Extends Furlough For Thousands Of Prisoners As Epidemic Rages on

Several cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been reported in Iranian prisons. FILE PHOTO

To stem the spread of the virus in crowded jails, Iran's judiciary on Sunday extended furloughs for 100,000 prisoners. On March 17, Iran said it had freed about 85,000 people from jail temporarily, including political prisoners.

"The second wave of (the) temporary release of prisoners had already started and their (100,000 prisoners) furloughs have been extended until April 19," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was reported as saying by state television.

Iran said it had 189,500 people in prison, according to a report submitted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran to the Human Rights Council in January.

In recent days there have been several prison riots and mass escapes from prisons, as inmate try to avoid coronavirus amid substandard prison conditions.

Iranian authorities say that U.S. sanctions are hampering their efforts to curb the outbreak and have urged other countries and the United Nations to call for the measures to be lifted. Washington has rejected a lifting of sanctions.

"U.S. has gone from sabotage & assassinations to waging an economic war & #EconomicTerrorism on Iranians—to #MedicalTerror amidst #covid19iran. This even exceeds what would be permissible on the battlefield," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday.

"STOP aiding WAR CRIMES. STOP obeying IMMORAL & ILLEGAL U.S. sanctions."

The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Thursday. Tehran has rejected a U.S. offer to help Iran to cope with the pandemic.

Reporting by Reuters