Coronavirus Cripples Iran: Senior Revolutionary Guards Commander Dies, 54,000 Prisoners Freed

March 5, 2020

2 min read

A senior commander and intelligence officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has died of coronavirus, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Muhammad Hajj Abulqasmi, who acted as the commander of the Basij battalions in the Tehran area and the Iranian intelligence service, died in a Tehran hospital after contracting coronavirus. His relatives said that he was probably infected while on duty.

In less than two weeks, Iran’s government went from denial, to what appears to be a cover-up. In some cases, they are getting infected themselves. Now, they are discussing a massive military and volunteer mobilized response. As of Wednesday, the death toll rose to 92, including 2,922 confirmed.

Now, Tehran has decided to free prisoners on a mass scale. This seems to be a sign that coronavirus is quickly spreading through the Islamic Republic’s overcrowded prison population.

“Iran has temporarily released more than 54,000 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of the new coronavirus disease in crowded jails,” the BBC reports.

According to a statement from Iran’s judiciary, their release is conditioned upon the inmate posting bail and more importantly that they test negative for coronavirus.

The dramatic measure could lead to Iran’s political prisoners being freed from prison including westerners who’ve been rotting in Iranian jails such as the Evin political prison in Tehran.

One of the more notable political prisoners trapped in Iran is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian dual citizen whose prospective freedom has received public support from a British parliament member. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been jailed in Evin since 2016. That same year, she was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for allegedly “plotting to topple the Iranian government”

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq took to Twitter calling for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release saying: “News from Iranian Ambassador that my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be released on furlough today or tomorrow from prison in Iran. If this is true, Nazanin would welcome leaving Evin jail, but we’ve been here before. If this furlough happens, the British government have an obligation to make it permanent, and not let her be used as a bargaining chip in the weeks to come. I remain concerned that Nazanin has told her family that she has still not been tested for coronavirus.”

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