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Largest Number of Prisoners in Khuzestan Province

Official figures show that Khuzestan, where much of Iran's Arab population resides, is the province with Iran's highest number of prisoners.

According to the provincial head of the high court, Farhad Afshar Nia, there are 13,000 prisoners in the province's prisons, representing 6 per cent of the country's total prison population of 213,000. Khuzestan represents around 5 per cent of the country's population.

Afshar Nia confirmed reports by human rights organisations that the province's prisons are over-crowded and called for many prisoners to be released.

He highlighted that thousands of convictions relate to dowry and financial convictions and called for their prison sentences to be suspended. Many of those in debt arrears face punitive fines beyond their ability to pay, leading to imprisonment and the loss of income.

Human rights organisations believe that the true number of prisoners is far higher with many held without charge in secret detention facilities, run by the Ministry of Intelligence and outside the prison service. Political prisoners often disappear for months at a time while they are tortured to extract confessions. When convicted of political crimes, prisoners face the worst prison conditions and often contract diseases while being denied medical attention. Human rights groups have called for political prisoners to be released under amnesty and the closure of secret detention facilities.