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20 March 2020

Imprisoned Iranian human rights defenders should be freed amidst COVID-19 outbreak

Front Line Defenders is calling on the Iranian authorities to release all imprisoned human rights defenders, who, given the conditions in which they are held, are at serious risk due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Iran has been severely affected by the pandemic. Although there are no official figures on how many detainees have been infected, the families of prisoners have reported several cases at Evin, Zanjan and Rajai Shahr prisons, where many human rights defenders are being arbitrarily held. The overcrowded wards, denial of proper medical care, and unhygienic conditions inside the prisons raise concerns that the virus could quickly spread among prisoners, including the detained human rights defenders. Should they get infected, it is highly unlikely that they will receive adequate medical treatment.

Although the Iranian authorities have temporarily released 85,000 prisoners in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many human rights defenders, including Atena Daemi, and Narges Mohammadi, remain imprisoned. Moreover, human rights defenders Arash Sadeghi and Saeed Shirzad, who both suffer from serious health conditions requiring urgent medical attention, have not been granted temporary release from Rajai Shahr Prison. Human rights defender and trade unionist Mohammad Habibi, who suffers from a chronic lung infection, remains imprisoned in Great Tehran Prison. On 17 March woman human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is detained in Evin Prison, started an open-ended hunger strike demanding freedom for all political prisoners.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of Iranian human rights defenders despite their exposure to and high risk of contracting COVID-19 while being held in poor, unhygienic conditions. It urges the authorities in Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, provide them with appropriate medical attention, and take all necessary measures to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity and security.