Iran releases ‘political prisoners’ amid Covid-19 outbreak, while virus-stricken UK keeps Assange behind bars
Tehran has released an Iranian national seen as a political prisoner in the UK as it fights the coronavirus. British activists and media rushed to say Iran’s move was not enough – while being blind to a bigger problem at home.
Aras Amiri, an Iranian national and UK resident who worked with the British Council, has been temporarily released from jail, where she has been held since 2018 after being found guilty of spying. The move is likely to be a part of efforts taken by Tehran to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in prisons in particular.
The UK board director of Amnesty International, Daren Nair, used the occasion to remind his Twitter followers that Amiri was “unjustly imprisoned” and to demand that Iranian authorities not just set her free but “let her come home to London to be with her fiancé.” The news was then eagerly picked up by various Western media outlets, including Radio Free Europe.
British resident and Londoner, Aras Amiri who has been unjustly imprisoned in #Iran's Evin Prison since 2018 with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released on furlough. The Iranian authorities must let her come home to London to be with her fiancé. #FreeArashttps://t.co/d0lq3a7mZz— Daren Nair (@DarenNair) April 9, 2020
Amiri was arrested back in 2018 while on a family visit to Iran. Her work with the British Council reportedly involved organizing film festivals and other cultural exchanges between the two countries. The organization, describing itself as the UK’s “international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities,” has been banned in Iran since 2009 in response to the launch of the BBC’s Persian service and the British embassy’s supposedly “significant role” in protests that rocked the country earlier the same year.
It seems that Iran – which various British officials and activists like to scold over alleged human rights violations – is showing concern for the fate of its inmates in the face of an epidemic that has seen more than 64,000 people infected nationwide.
Earlier, Tehran also temporarily released another person who has long been seen in the UK as a victim of unjust political persecution. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian journalist and aid worker, was sentenced to five years on charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government back in 2016.Also on rt.com ‘Imprisonment should be last resort...in crisis’ – UN rights chief on prisoners’ fates amid Covid-19 outbreak
In mid-March, she was among some 85,000 other inmates released from Tehran’s Evin prison as part of the state response to the spread of Covid-19. On March 29, her temporary leave was extended by an additional fortnight.
Such measures were just what UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet had called for in an address to governments around the world amid the pandemic.
However, Julian Assange, whom Amnesty International also called “a prisoner of conscience,” has so far been denied the same treatment from UK authorities. The British justice system has refused to release him from maximum security prison HMP Belmarsh on bail, even though the facility has already reported not just several confirmed coronavirus cases, but the first death within its walls from the dreaded disease.
Activists, medics and even the UN rapporteur on torture have repeatedly pointed to the WikiLeaks founder’s poor state of health while calling for his release. However, their pleas apparently do not provide enough ground for London to release Assange, who has not been found guilty of any serious offenses and is awaiting a court decision on his extradition to the US.Also on rt.com Assange’s life in GRAVE DANGER as first Covid-19 death confirmed in Belmarsh prison — Wikileaks editor-in-chief
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