Tehran concerned for Iranians jailed in US amid outbreak

TEHRAN (AFP) – Tehran expressed concern yesterday over the health of Iranian prisoners in the United States (US) because of what it called US President Donald Trump’s mismanagement of a coronavirus outbreak. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi made the remarks after the US demanded the release of American prisoners from virus-hit Iran.

“We’re concerned about sanitary conditions at America’s prisons with the chaotic situation we’re seeing” in the US, Mousavi said.

“We’re worried about the health of some Iranian prisoners taken hostage there,” he told a news conference that was held online because of the outbreak.

Both Iran and the US have been hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak that originated in China.

The outbreak in the Republic is one of the deadliest outside of China, with the government reporting 291 deaths and more than 8,000 infections. The US in turn has recorded at least 22 deaths and 607 confirmed cases, according to a Johns Hopkins tally.

Washington called on Tehran on Tuesday to release all American prisoners held in the country and said it will have a “decisive” response to any deaths among them.

“It’s unfortunate that the American government, in an opportunist move, accused Iran or China or any other country it has issues with of incompetence when the virus spread there,” Mousavi said.

“But, as we have said before, this will backfire on them, too.”

Mousavi criticised the US over what he called its “imaginary projects like a wall, a carefree president, and needless and illegal presence in other countries”.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman urged Washington to use its resources better to ensure the health of its citizens. Decades-old tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

Mousavi said the US “arrogantly” claims food and medicine are exempt from sanctions while banking transactions are blocked.