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Virus Kills Another 134 People in Iran, UN Concerned over Prisoners

Virus Kills Another 134 People in Iran, UN Concerned over Prisoners

Friday, 3 April, 2020 - 11:00
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani attends a news conference in Damascus, Syria February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus rose on Friday to 3,294 as it killed another 134 people in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur.

The total number of people confirmed to be infected is 53,183, he said on state television, adding that 4,035 ware "under observation", a term that may mean they are in critical condition.

Of the total number of people who were diagnosed with the disease, 17,935 have recovered, he said.

Iran is the country most affected in the Middle East by the pandemic.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, 62, is among those who have contracted the disease.

The Trump administration has proposed US aid to Iran but offered few details and has kept expanding sanctions.

Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden called Thursday for the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to reduce suffering.

Biden said the United States should set up a dedicated channel for banks and other companies to operate in Iran and issue licenses for the sale of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The former vice president also called for guarantees to aid groups that they will not be penalized for operating in Iran -- and said Tehran should reciprocate by freeing detained Americans.

Concern over prisoners

A United Nations rights official on Friday voiced concern over prisoners after reports of unrest in facilities prompted by worries over a coronavirus outbreak in countries including Iran, one of the worst-hit in the world.

Iranian media have reported unrest in several prisons, and a mass escape from a facility in the west of the country, despite the temporary release of some 100,000 inmates to curb prison overcrowding.

“As you see in Iran and some other countries, we are seeing riots, prisoners who are afraid, who are distressed at the big loss of contact from family members and so on. So there are many, many issues surrounding this,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

"Iran... has increased the number it is releasing, at least on a temporary basis, to around 100,000 prisoners – some 40 percent of the entire prison population," he said.

"We are horrified at the death of a juvenile offender after he was reportedly badly beaten by security officers," Colville added. "Prisoners were protesting at prison conditions and the failure of the authorities to temporarily release them amid the COVID-19 pandemic."

There was no immediate report of the alleged incident in Iranian media and officials could not be reached on Friday, the weekend in the country.

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