British-Iranian prisoner reveals coronavirus chaos inside Iran

A British-Iranian prisoner has revealed how soldiers are wearing worn out masks and no gloves as the Iranian prison system collapses into coronavirus chaos.

Anoosheh Ashoori, who is being held in Tehran on spying charges, also said no one checked his temperature when he was moved to a bedbug riddled ward in Evin prison without explanation.

A second prisoner has said guards are standing too far away from prisoners to do a headcount and forcing them to buy their own hand sanitiser – making it unavailable for most.

There are fears of a massive outbreak in the Iranian prison system as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also being held in the notorious jail, displayed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but was not tested. She is said to be ‘improving’.

The Iranian authorities have said they will release 54,000 prisoners who test negative for the virus in an attempt to alleviate the pressure.

Iran has imposed a nationwide lock down today after more than 500 people died of the virus and at least 11,000 were found to be infected, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.

Speaking in a recorded phone call to his family reported by The Guardian, Mr Ashoori said: ‘It is chaos and I cannot explain how bad this situation is.

‘(The guards) touched all our stuff when we entered.

‘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 for coronavirus quarantine.’

In a phone call from Evin prison on Thursday, a second prisoner – who has not been named – said: ‘The situation here is really that we’re all ill, we are all having dry cough. We have fever.

‘There is no test for coronavirus or any test kits available. All we can do is try to reach the clinic by pushing and shoving. And once there, the guards tell us there is no doctor or that the doctor is not coming, return to your ward or we will use force.

‘If by chance, we happen to find a doctor, all they do is to aim their digital thermometer at us, without even approaching us.

‘A number of inmates who contracted coronavirus were transferred to Massih Daneshvari hospital and never came back.

‘Prisoners (with money) can afford to buy disinfectants for themselves from outside the prison but, others like us, are without that kind of money and we cannot even buy alcohol to clean our hands.

‘The guards do not dare approach us for the head count. They address us from a distance while wearing mask and gloves.

‘They do not touch our ball-point pens.

‘When they want to take us to court, they use vapour disinfectants to clean us and use disinfectant gel and spray. And they do not permit us to touch the court’s pens or stamps.’

The prisoner also said they fear that Iran is using the outbreak to ‘liquidate’ those it is holding.

Both inmates made urgent calls for international investigators to visit the cells and see the conditions they are being kept in.

Official figures suggest that six prisoners are infected with coronavirus in Evin prison and one, in ward four, has died. The actual number is thought to be much higher.

Iran has insisted its prisons are clean and that ‘necessary’ tests are being completed and that it has responded to the crisis through its release programme.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is waiting for his wife to be released from prison in the outbreak.

She was taken to see a doctor last week but was not tested for coronavirus, according to the Free Nazanin campaign.

‘(The doctor) confirmed to her that her symptoms were clearly a virus and were consistent with coronavirus but he also confessed he was unable to test her with a testing kit,’ they said in a statement.

‘The doctor, however, did reassure Nazanin that since her symptoms had stabilised it was likely a positive sign that she was hopefully soon going to start to recover.’

She was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016 while travelling with her daughter and jailed on spying charges for five years.

Iran is one of the country’s worst hit by the outbreak. Satellite images have revealed mass graves being constructed in the city of Qom, suggesting a major epidemic.

Members of the Iranian parliament, a former diplomat and a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have died.

In response, the judiciary have said they will release 54,000 prisoners who have tested negative for the virus. But, as test kits remain hard to come by, it is not clear how they will establish this.

In a statement on March 4 they said those released would include ‘security prisoners’ who had been jailed for more than five years.

Source » dailymail

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