Iraq releases 16,000 prisoners amid Covid-19 outbreak

Iraq releases 16,000 prisoners amid Covid-19 outbreak
2 min read
16 April, 2020
Iraq's justice ministry says it has released 16,455 prisoners as a coronavirus prevention measure.
Iraq has followed the example set by its neighbours in releasing thousands of inmates [Getty]
Iraq's Supreme Judicial Court announced on Thursday it had authorised the release of over 16,000 prisoners as a preventative measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

It added that it has issued pardons to more than 1,000 convincts.

The announcement comes after much pressure on the government from both inside and outside the country, including warnings from the health authorities that the virus could cause a crisis if it spread within prisons.

A statement issued by the Supreme Judicial Council said: "16,455 accused have been released betweeen the country's first infection and the 15th of April, in order to reduce the risks posed by the coronavirus."

A justice ministry official told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that there have been releases from prisons across the country, mainly for those convicted of misdemeanours and not serious crimes. 

Read more: Has Iraq passed its coronavirus peak?

He added that a number of other cases are being considered for a second wave of releases.

According to a 2013 report, Iraqi prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity, which puts both prisoners and staff at risk of a rapid spread of coronavirus.

Iraq follows the example of several countries in the region that have released or furloughed detainees as a precaution against a catastrophic spread of the virus.

Neighbouring Iran has released 85,000 prisoners, while Turkey has released some 45,000 and Afghanistan 10,000.

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