The Week in Review: April 17th – April 24th

A spokesperson at Iran’s Ministry of Health said that at least 5,574 people had now died from the coronavirus in Iran, with an estimated 87,026 COVID-19 cases overall inside the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. Navy on Wednesday to open fire on Iranian ships if they attempted to intimidate any of its fleets. The request came after the U.S. government said that 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ships had sailed dangerously close to six U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, appearing to harass the ships.

The IRGC’s head, Hossein Salami, responded to Trump’s comment on Thursday, saying that he had instructed Iran’s naval forces to destroy U.S. warships if they threatened Iran’s interests in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the Trump Administration was still prepared to talk to the Iranian government without preconditions. Ms Ortagus said, “We find it very sad and discouraging that the regime refuses our help. There is no string attached to this aid.”

Iranian hospital chiefs have been fired for challenging the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 data. The government is believed to have discharged the heads of two hospitals and two medical schools for criticizing the Ministry of Health’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and for questioning the accuracy of its reports on the scale of the outbreak.

The Research Center of the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) has released a report which suggests that the number of coronavirus cases in Iran is much higher than stated by official government figures. The report, entitled,“Fighting the Spread of Coronavirus: A Progress Report on the Control of COVID-19 in the Country: Predicting the Second Wave of the Virus and Making Preparations,” noted that as in China, 80 percent of people who are infected have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic and so are not hospitalized, making it impossible to know the full extent of the outbreak in Iran. The report also noted that the virus could have a seasonal life cycle and reappear in colder months moving forward. According to the report, a second wave in late September could kill up to 9,000 people in Iran.

And Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the detained British-Iranian dual national who was granted furlough after the Iranian government decided to release a selection of prisoners during the pandemic, could be eligible for conditional release under Islamic jurisprudence, according to her lawyer Mahmoud Behzadi.

Iran is governed by Islamic legislation, which includes a statutory instrument called the Islamic Penal Code. It is this code, which could enable Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. Article 58 of the Penal Code makes provision for conditional release if the prisoner has shown strong moral character while serving their sentence, is unlikely to re-offend if released, pays a fine and has not benefitted from conditional release in the past.

Our thoughts are with everyone in Iran, and around the world, affected by the outbreak.