Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is to pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, in honor of the Iranian New Year holiday today, state TV reported.
“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail... Almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well,” Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on Wednesday.
Iran had temporarily freed about 85,000 people from jail, including political prisoners, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Esmaili said on Tuesday.
Photo: AFP / Ho / Iranian Presidency
“A large number of prisoners who have been temporarily freed do not need to return to jail after the leader’s pardon,” Esmaili said. “The unprecedented part is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences.”
Esmaili did not say whether the pardon would include British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was released on Tuesday for two weeks.
Iran says that it had 189,500 people in prison, a report that UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Javaid Rehman submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in January said.
The prisoners are believed to include hundreds arrested during or after anti-government protests in November last year.
The pandemic has prompted calls from the UN and the US for political prisoners, including dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, to be released from Iran’s overcrowded and disease-ridden jails.
Washington has told Iran that it would hold the Tehran government directly responsible for any American deaths in jail.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners over the past few years, including citizens of Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US.
Tehran denies that it holds people on political grounds, and has mainly accused foreign prisoners of espionage.
In June last year, Iran released Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman with US permanent residency, after four years in prison. Last year, Iran also released Wang Xiyue (王希悅), a US citizen who had been held for three years on spying charges.
Rights advocates have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge the Iranian government has regularly dismissed.
Tehran has called for the release of about several dozen Iranians held in US prisons, mostly for breaching sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.
Tensions have risen between longtime foes Iran and the US since 2018, when Washington quit Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy.
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