Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is among political prisoners in Iran (File)

UN human rights experts have called on Iran to release political prisoners, including foreign and dual nationals, amid the risk of Coronavirus spreading in detention facilities.

The experts noted that Iran has given temporary furlough to more than 100,000 detainees since an order by judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi on February. However, they said most political prisoners, human rights activists, environmentalists, and foreign nationals are still behind bars.

Some are at great risk from COVID-19 due to their age or underlying health conditions. We call on the authorities to immediately release them.

On Friday, Iran’s Health Ministry raised the official Coronavirus death toll to 4,958, amid 79,494 confirmed cases. Almost 3,600 patients are in critical condition.

Furloughs “Can Save Their Lives”

The regime’s initial release of about 70,000 detainees included few political prisoners. After international pressure, Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was furloughed, and French academic Roland Marchal was freed in a prisoner swap with Paris.

Others remain at risk in prisons, including Marchal’s colleague Fariba Adelkhah and American oil executive Siamak Namazi; eight environmentalists, including Anglo-American-Iranian national Morad Tahbaz; human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh; human rights activists Narges Mohammadi and Arash Sadeghi; Swedish permanent resident Ahmadreza Djalali; and Austrian-Iranian nationals Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb.

The UN statement emphasized:

Mr. Tahbaz and Mr. Mossaheb are over 60 years old and could experience serious health consequences from COVID-19 due to their age, including loss of life.

These individuals also have existing life-threatening health issues, as do Ms. Mohammadi, Mr. Sadeghi, Mr. Ghaderim and Mr. Djalali, heightening the serious risk to their health if infected. The immediate release by the Iranian judiciary of these individuals and other prisoners of conscience could save their lives.

The experts supported Iranian calls for assistance with medical supplies amid comprehensive US sanctions:

We recognize the emergency situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the problems it faces in fighting the pandemic, including reported challenges in accessing medical supplies due to sanctions.

We echo High Commissioner [Michelle] Bachelet’s call for the easing of sanctions to enable medical systems to fight COVID-19 and limit global contagion.