The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) says that at least three political activists in Tehran's Evin prison have joined imprisoned human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike demanding freedom for all political prisoners.
Sotoudeh's hunger strike was launched after Iranian judicial officials announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed 1,135 people in Iran.
Iranian officials have not provided official lists of who has been released or indicated why some remain behind bars while others have been granted temporary release.
Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told CHRI on March 17 that other prisoners of conscience, including Rezvaneh Khanbeigi, Hossein Sarlak, and Morteza Nazari, were also refusing food in solidarity with Sotoudeh.
Iran has been the hardest-hit country by the virus in the Middle East, with a total of 17,361 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region's total.
Sotoudeh, the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was arrested at her home in Tehran in June 2018. She was sentenced to a total of 38 1/2 years in prison and 148 lashes over her defense of political prisoners, including women protesting the compulsory hijab law.
Khandan told CHRI that his wife was aware of the dangers of going on a hunger strike amid the deadly outbreak, given chronic shortages of medicines and sanitary supplies in Iranian prisons.
She started the hunger strike only as a "last resort," he added.
"Nasrin says, 'If we're going to die, let us be by our families' sides,'" Khandan told CHRI.