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Iran releases prisoners detained during anti-government protests

Tehran said the pardons were part of Khamenei's annual clemency order to mark the Prophet Muhammad's birthday
Anti-government protests began across the country in 2019 after Tehran increased the price of fuel (AFP)

Iran has pardoned more than 150 people held on charges linked to their alleged involvement in the anti-government protests which rocked the country last year. 

The Iranian judiciary announced the pardons on Tuesday, making it the largest release of prisoners since the harsh crackdown against anti-government protests, which first broke out over fuel prices.

Judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters that the 157 freed "security detainees" had been held for taking part in the protests and "spreading propaganda against the system".

This latest amnesty was part of the customary clemency order by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Iran temporarily releases jailed rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
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Khamenei, who has the highest authority in Iran, pardoned at least 3,780 prisoners last week. 

The latest releases coincide with the one-year anniversary of the bloody crackdown against protesters and come as the United States is poised to issue more sanctions. 

Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday that Washington was expected to issue more sanctions. 

Earlier this year, Iran issued a temporary release of thousands of prisoners following concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in jails. 

Lawyer released

Last week, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was temporarily released from the Garchak women's prison in Tehran. 

But following her release, Sotoudeh's husband said on Facebook that his wife had contracted the coronavirus in Garchak. The 57-year-old lawyer, who represented opposition activists including women prosecuted for removing their hijab, had been arrested in 2018 over charges of spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran's supreme leader. 

Sotoudeh denied the charges and was sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.