Prison riot in southern Iran over coronavirus fears

Development comes weeks after Tehran began releasing prisoners as part of measures to combat spread of coronavirus.

    Iran's health authorities say 14,000 people have recovered while 3,500 people are in critical condition [File: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA]
    Iran's health authorities say 14,000 people have recovered while 3,500 people are in critical condition [File: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA]

    Inmates at a prison in southern Iran have staged a riot over fears of contamination amid a coronavirus outbreak that has seen more than 40,000 infections and 2,757 deaths in the country. 

    Fars province Governor Enayatollah Rahimi said the protest broke out in the early hours of Sunday at Adel Abad prison in the southwestern city of Shiraz, according to Iran's official IRNA news agency. 

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    Rahimi said prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing violent criminals. There were no reports of injuries or any escapes.

    Prison authorities in Iran have, in recent weeks, released as many as 100,000 prisoners in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    The precautionary measure, however, excluded so-called "security cases", including violent offenders, dual-nationals and others with ties to western governments.

    IRNA reported on Friday that 70 inmates escaped Saqqez Prison in Iran's western Kurdistan province. Prisoners beat guards during the chaos, a local prosecutor said. Several inmates later returned to the prison of their own volition.

    Since the beginning of the year, riots have broken out in prisons in Aligudarz, Hamedan and Tabriz as well, with some prisoners escaping, IRNA reported.

    Health authorities say that, of the 40,000 or so cases detected, 14,000 have so far recovered while 3,500 people remain in critical condition. 

    The virus has infected more than 720,000 people worldwide, causing more than 34,000 deaths, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. More than 150,000 people have recovered. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies