News & Views
Iranian president calls for humane prisons
TEHRAN, May 3 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called Sunday for humane treatment of prisoners as the judiciary chief, Ayatoallah Mohammad Yazdi, announced plans to build more prisons to cope with the soaring number of inmates.
"Before being a criminal, a prisoner is a human being who should not be excluded from society," the moderate Khatami said in a meeting with the country's prison officials.
"Through correct methods, even a criminal could be rehabilitated and transformed into a productive person."
"We must protect the legal rights of prisoners in the same way we do those of others," he added. "A prison should be an acceptably lively place with sanitary conditions as well as recreational and educational facilities."
In a similar meeting Saturday, Yazdi announced plans to build several new prisons to cope with the growing number of people arrested on drug-related charges who now make up nearly half of the country's detainees.
Yazdi, a conservative, said no prisons had been built in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution but that the need had arisen for more detention facilities after the recent passage of tougher laws on drug-related crimes.
The country currently has about 110,000 prisoners compared to 90,000 in 1994. A prison official, who was not identified, said 43 projects were underway to build new prisons and make changes in existing facilities.
He also unveiled plans to transfer some prisons from cities to the periphery.