Official Iranian coronavirus numbers probably underestimated: Radio Farda

Radio Farda said death toll is more likely at 4,298 and the number of hospitalized or quarantined people at 66,657. (WANA)
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Updated 31 March 2020

Official Iranian coronavirus numbers probably underestimated: Radio Farda

  • Government expects death toll to be 11,000 with current levels of intervention
  • Official daily tolls have been decreasing the past three days

DUBAI: The Iranian death toll does not match government predictions, the increase in number of cases or collected data, Radio Farda reported on Monday.
Although the official death toll is at 2,757 and the number of cases is at 41,495, the radio station’s data – gathered from “various national and local media in Iran, as well as comments made by regional authorities and Health Ministry officials” –  showed that the death toll is more likely at 4,298 and the number of hospitalized or quarantined people at 66,657 the report added.
The Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also said the current number of daily deaths is decreasing while the number of daily cases keeps increasing. 
For instance, the report explained, Iran’s daily death tolls on March 28 were 139, 123 on the 29th 123, and 117 on the 30. 
One of the reasons for the increased number of confirmed cases is the increased number of testing kits, which allow the government to diagnose more cases. Yet, the trend of increasing infections with a decrease in deaths has not been observed in other countries, the report explained.
Meanwhile, according to a model quoted by the President’s Science and Technology Deputy Parviz Karami, with the current adopted level of governmental intervention – which is intermediate –  the total death cases of COVID-19 would reach around 11,000 by July.
The report added that if the government adopts a high-level of intervention, without involving military but with inter and inner city movement banned, city quarantines and isolation and contact tracing, then the death toll would be around 7,700, as per the same model mentioned earlier.
“The Iranian government appears to have adopted the intermediate intervention approach. But if the death tally at this point is around 4,000, the estimated number of 7,700 seems to be too low,” Radio Farda reported.

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.