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Prominent Political Prisoner In Iran On Hunger Strike To Protect Inmates From Coronavirus

Iranian lawyer and political prisoner Nasrin Sotoudeh. FILE PHOTO
Iranian lawyer and political prisoner Nasrin Sotoudeh. FILE PHOTO

Prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh is on hunger strike to protest keeping political prisoners behind bars while the deadly novel coronavirus is killing hundreds in Iran, her husband Reza Khandan told Radio Farda.

In a statement published on Monday, March 16, Ms. Sotoudeh said, "Amidst a crisis (coronavirus outbreak) that Iran and the whole world are struggling with, the same intelligence and military bodies responsible for disrupting the country's security insist on keeping political prisoners incarcerated."

Describing novel coronavirus as a deadly storm in an uncertain time, Sotoudeh has accused the fearsome Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) intelligence agents of aggravating the catastrophe to the extent that political prisoners and their families also fall victim to the deadly Covid-19.

Tuesday morning, Gholamhossein Esmaili, the spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary said that more than 85 thousand prisoners including some political prisoners have been released from jail to avoid infection by coronavirus. However, this did not stop the authorities from putting more political activists in jail.

However, important political prisoners who have received more than5-year prison sentences are still kept behind bars.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the head of the judiciary, families of fourteen political prisoners reminded him that their loved ones were not freed and called on him to issue a "special order" for their temporary release.

The head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raeesi, has disregarded the request has so far.

According to Nasrin Sotoudeh, closing many prison wards across Iran, including the women's block in [Tehran's notorious prison] Evin is a "national requirement."

It is also a national prerequisite for the ruling establishment in Iran to reconcile with the world, benefiting from its science and technology to address the Covid-19 problem, Sotoudeh has asserted.

"Since all legal and judicial correspondences about the necessity of releasing political prisoners have been left unanswered," Sotoudeh has argued, "I am going on hunger strike as a last resort."

Earlier, on March 10, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, had told reporters in Geneva that some dual and foreign nationals imprisoned in Iran were at real risk of contracting the coronavirus.

"I have recommended to the state of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release all prisoners on temporary release," Rehman said.

In the meantime, Ms. Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, told Radio Farda that the situation in Tehran's infamous Evin prison is disastrous.

"The prison wards at Evin are over-crowded. Sixty inmates are kept in one small room. Even distributing face masks will not be enough to protect them from the deadly virus," Khandan affirmed.

Moreover, according to Khandan, the judicial and IRGC agents have not allowed the World Health Organization's (WHO) representative to visit political prisoners in Evin.