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Two prisoners killed in Jordan prison after coronavirus visit bans triggered riots

Jordan has seven confirmed Covid-19 cases [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2020

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Jordan is not the first country to witness prison riots over banned visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. Similar events killed 12 inmates in Italy last week.
Two inmates have been killed during a prison riot in Jordan, the state news agency said on Sunday, after family visits were banned for two weeks to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The two died in a riot at a facility in Irbid province, the Petra news agency said. 

Jordan has had seven confirmed coronavirus cases, Health Minister Saad Jaber announced on Sunday.

Four French tourists were among those diagnosed with the virus.

However, the kingdom is not the only country to have dealt with deadly prison riots amid the global Covid-19 outbreak.

Chaos erupted in Italian prisons earlier this month after authorities announced a ban on visits to combat the spread of the virus.

Twelve inmates were killed and another 73 escaped during the riots, the justice ministry said last week. Sixten escapees remain at large according to the latest reports.

Most of the 12 died as a result of overdosing on drugs taken from medical stocks during the riots.

Fears for Iranian prisoners

The Covid-19 pandemic has also seen widespread worries for prisoners held in crowded and unsanitary conditions across the Middle East region.

Iran relented to requests by activists and opposition lawmakers to release about 70,000 prisoners on temporary leave earlier this month. 

But a United Nations expert warned last week that the "discriminatory" measures were "too little, too late".

The temporary release programme only includes prisoners serving sentences of up to five years, said Javaid Rehman, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

It therefore excludes anyone jailed for national security offences, such as those rounded up in the lethal crackdown on protests in November, political prisoners and dual and foreign nationals.

Iran has witnessed one of the deadliest outbreaks of the virus outside of China where it originated. At least 853 people have died after contracting Covid-19, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Monday.

The family of an imprisoned dual British-Iranian national said late last month they feared she had contracted the novel coronavirus.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker arrested while visiting family in Iran in 2016, has complained of suffering a "strange cold" with a fever and difficulty breathing, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said. Authorities have reportedly refused to test her for the new coronavirus.

An exiled opposition group has also reported prisoners sharing common coronavirus symptoms.

"The United States will hold the Iranian regime directly responsible for any American deaths. Our response will be decisive," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement last week.

"Reports that Covid-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens.

"Their detention amid increasingly deteriorating conditions defies basic human decency."

Activists have also expressed concerns for prisoners in Syria, both those held in regime-run prisons and Islamic State group suspects held in detention facilities run by Kurdish-led groups.

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Agencies contributed to this report

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