British-Iranian prisoner says Iran’s Evin prison in coronavirus chaos


A recorded message sent by British-Iranian political prisoner from inside a prison in Iran, describes a jail in full chaos because of the coronavirus outbreak and has appealed to the UK government to help secure his temporary release.

Anoosheh Ashoori, who is incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison, was transferred three days ago to ward four, a ward he claims housed coronavirus victims previously.

In the recording, from a phone call to his wife, Sherry, in London, he said people were arriving in the new ward from quarantine.

Ashoori was sentenced two years ago to 10 years in jail on charges of spying for Israel, a charge he vehemently denies.

While Iran is releasing a large number of prisoners, including some political prisoners, on bail, it has refused to release most of those with sentences longer than five years. Some older prisoners with longer sentences have been released.

In a call from the prison recorded by his family, Ashoori said, “As we entered [the new prison ward]the soldiers were wearing worn-out masks, and no gloves. Nobody checked anybody for high temperature. All our stuff they touched when we entered.”

He added: “Last night bedbugs were biting everyone. Nobody slept through the night. Today we have newcomers who are murderers and all different outlaws. Someone was sent from corona[virus]quarantine.”

“It is chaos and I cannot explain how bad this situation is. All the places are filthy with bedbugs. I cannot explain how bad this situation is. It needs international attention.” He added that he did not know why, as he saw it, human rights groups were keeping silent.

The reasons for the transfer within the ward to what are regarded as far less sanitary conditions have not been explained to the political or security prisoners, but more than 50,000 prisoners are being released nationwide temporarily amid fears that the virus could rapidly spread within prisons.

At least six prominent journalists and activists have been temporarily released in recent days.

Iran insists conditions in jails are clean, necessary tests are being done and it has responded to the crisis through its release programme.

A list of 10 political prisoners who were due to be released on furlough was read out to the male political prisoners last week including two dual nationals, one from the US and one from the UK. Their identities have not been divulged.

Ashoori’s son Aryan said he was prepared to camp outside No 10 and the Foreign Office to press ministers to do more to help his father.

Sherry said: “This is playing with people’s lives. This is abandoning people. My husband is 65 years old, and he has done absolutely nothing wrong. Iran seems to be mocking the Europeans.”

Iran does not recognise the status of dual nationals, and so will not receive UK representations.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of another imprisoned British-Iranian, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is still hoping his wife will be temporarily released. She had reportedly fallen ill, but the prison authorities have said she has recovered.

Human Rights Watch, in a release on Wednesday, said it had received reports that prisoners had tested positive for coronavirus, including in Evin prison and others in the cities of Euromieh and Rasht. (Source: The Guardian)