Iran Evin Prison Fire: Multiple Fatalities in Iran’s Infamous Detention Facility

A major fire at Iran’s notorious Evin prison has killed four people and hurt 61 others, according to a state-run news agency in Iran. According to some sources inside the prison, which is known for holding political prisoners, that the number of people killed is higher.

Videos posted online showed flames, smoke, gunshots and explosions at the site in Tehran. Protests against the government have been going on for weeks in Iran.

They started last month after Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd who was 22, died while in police custody. Officials said she died of a heart attack, but her family said she was beaten by the morality police, which is not what the officials said.

State media has said that the two don’t have anything to do with each other, citing an official who said that the fire was caused by “criminal elements.”

From inside the prison, Tehran’s governor told state TV that there was a riot in a section of the prison where small-time criminals were being held.

Some journalists said on social media that the government “intentionally set the prison on fire” because a well-known political prisoner was sent home before the fire started. According to his brother, Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is the son of Iran’s late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was given “early temporary release.”

Saturday night was the first time that a video of the fire and smoke was shared on social media. People outside the prison could be heard chanting “death to the dictator” in several videos. This was one of the main slogans of the movement against the government.

In other videos, you could hear gunshots and explosions. The Fars news agency, which is connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said that mines went off after prisoners escaped from jail. It said that a prisoner who tried to escape during the fire ended up in a minefield on the northern side of the prison.

But one video seemed to show that things were shot into the prison from outside its walls and then an explosion was heard. The family of a political prisoner told BBC Persian that families and lawyers of prisoners were not allowed near the jail last night and roads were blocked.

Some prisoners’ families said they couldn’t call their loved ones on the phone and it seemed like the internet connection around the prison had been cut off. But in the end, some prisoners were able to get in touch with their families and let them know they were safe.

The husband of journalist Niloufar Hamed said she was able to call him and he told her he was fine but didn’t know what happened in jail. And Siamak Namazi, who is both Iranian and American, told his lawyer that he had been moved to a safe place.

On Saturday night, parts of the prison were shown on Iranian state TV to be safe and quiet. Masoud Kazemi, an exiled Iranian journalist who spent almost a year in Evin, said that the report only showed parts of the jail where nothing had happened.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori are both British and Iranian. They were both held at Evin prison for several years on spying charges, which they denied, until earlier this year.

Western rights groups have always said bad things about the prison. Human Rights Watch has said that prison officials use threats of torture and of being locked up for life, as well as long interrogations and not giving detainees medical care.

In August of last year, a group of hackers called Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice) posted videos with leaked surveillance footage from Evin prison that showed guards beating or mistreating prisoners.

Some foreign governments are worried that their people are being held in the prison. A spokesperson for the US State Department said it was following events with “urgency,” and the UK Government’s security minister called it a “very worrying development.”

Since Ms. Amini died five weeks ago, a wave of protests has swept across Iran, posing the Islamic Republic’s biggest challenge since it was founded in 1979. Teenagers have been among those who have died.

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