UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday that Iran should release all imprisoned political activists, citing the risk of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded prisons.
The UN rights chief singled out prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving a 30-year prison term.
Bachelet said “I am very concerned that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life is at risk,” pointing to her heart condition and recent hunger strike.
Earlier, Sotoudeh won a 2020 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the alternative Nobel prize
Iran is the Middle Eastern country that has been hit the hardest by COVID-19, with nearly half a million cases and some associated 27,000 deaths.
As the novel coronavirus also spread through the prison system, some 120,000 inmates were temporarily released in February to avoid further infections.
However, people serving long sentences for national security offences were excluded from this policy.
As a result, most of the imprisoned rights activists, lawyers, environmental campaigners and other dissenters have remained behind bars.
Bachelet added that “expressing dissent is not a crime. It is a fundamental right that should be protected and upheld,’’ demanding their unconditional release.