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Pompeo calls for Iran to release US prisoners over coronavirus concerns

March 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) in Ukraine on 31 January 2020 [Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency]

The US Secretary of State called on Tuesday for Iran to release American prisoners being held in its jails, CNN has reported. Mike Pompeo made his comment after reports that the coronavirus has spread to Iranian prisons.

“Reports that COVID-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling,” said Pompeo, “and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens.”

According to CNN, the senior official insisted that the US would hold Tehran responsible if any of the American prisoners died from the virus. “Our response will be decisive,” he warned.

The Secretary of State called on those countries which are considering sending humanitarian assistance to Iran to assist in the fight against the virus to get “reciprocal” favours from the government in Tehran. “Any nation considering whether to provide Iran with humanitarian assistance because of COVID-19 should seek a reciprocal humanitarian gesture by the regime: release all wrongly detained dual and foreign national citizens.”

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CNN pointed out that there are at least four US citizens being held in prison in Iran. “The United States will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained abroad are returned home,” concluded Pompeo.

A UN rights expert was reported by AFP as saying on Tuesday that Iran’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, including the “temporary” release of 70,000 prisoners, was “too little, too late”. Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, told reporters in Geneva that Tehran was trying to “fudge” its handling of the outbreak. “The situation on coronavirus is highly disturbing within Iran,” he added.