Iranian officials say Tehran prison blaze killed 4 inmates

CAIRO: A towering fire at a prison notorious for holding political prisoners and anti-government activists in Iran’s capital has killed four inmates, the country’s judiciary says. know Sunday.
Flames and smoke billowing from Tehran’s Evin Prison were widely seen on Saturday night, as nationwide anti-government protests erupted over the death of a young woman in police custody. into the fifth week. In the online videos, gunfire and explosions can be heard in the prison area.
State media said the fire was extinguished after several hours and no one escaped.
They said the fire broke out after an altercation between inmates, in an apparent attempt to distance the events there from the ongoing protests. Hundreds of people are being held at Evin, where human rights groups have repeatedly reported abuse of prisoners.
State media initially reported nine people were injured, but the Judiciary website on Sunday said four inmates died of smoke inhalation and 61 others were injured. It said all four dead were in prison for robbery.
Mizan said 10 inmates were hospitalized, four of them in serious condition. It said some inmates tried to escape but were unsuccessful.
State television on Sunday showed video of the aftermath of the fire, showing scorched walls and ceilings in a room believed to be the upper floor of a garment factory at the prison.
Mohsen Mansouri, Governor of Tehran, said: “This fire was caused by a fight between some prisoners in the garment factory. The workshop was set up to create jobs” for the prisoners.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday that there had been clashes between inmates in one block and prison staff, citing a senior security official. The official said inmates set fire to a warehouse filled with prison uniforms, causing the fire. He said the “rioters” had been separated from other prisoners to de-escalate the conflict.
The official said the “situation is completely under control” and firefighters were putting out the blaze. Later, Tehran’s prosecutor Ali Salehi said calm had returned to prison and that the unrest had nothing to do with the four-week-long protests across the country.
IRNA later reported nine people were injured without giving further details. It published video showing burning debris scattered around a building, with firefighters spraying down embers.
Inmates’ families gathered on Sunday near the prison in hopes of news of their loved ones inside.
Masoumeh, 49, who only gave his name, said his 19-year-old son was sent to prison two weeks ago after participating in street protests. “I can’t trust the news about his health, I need to see him closely,” she said.
Another man, Reza, who also gave only his name, said his brother had been in Evin prison since last year after he was involved in a violent argument. “He hasn’t called us in recent days and after last night’s fire I’m here to find out what happened to him,” he said.
The US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reports that an “armed conflict” has broken out within the prison’s walls. It said gunfire was first heard in Ward 7 of the prison. This account cannot be authenticated immediately.
Footage of the fire is circulating online. The videos show footage of the blast as plumes of smoke rise into the sky amid alarm bells. A protest broke out in the streets shortly after, with many chanting “Death to the dictator!” – involving Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – and burning tires, the videos show.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said on Sunday that several inmates trying to escape had entered a minefield located north of the prison. . “It is said that the sound of the explosions is related to the case,” the report said, without providing further details. A later Fars report said no landmines were detonated by the prisoners.
Online video of the prison fire appeared to show circles being launched into the area by security forces, followed by the sound of an explosion. It remains unclear what type of ring Iran’s security forces used in the incident.
Witnesses said police had cordoned off roads and highways to Evin and at least three loud explosions were heard from the area. Traffic was heavy along major highways near the prison, in the north of the capital, and many people honked their horns to show solidarity with the protests.
Riot police were seen riding motorbikes towards the facility, as were ambulances and fire trucks. Witnesses reported that the Internet was blocked in the area.
The prison fire came as protesters stepped up anti-government demonstrations along main streets and at universities in several cities across Iran on Saturday. Human rights monitors reported hundreds of deaths, including children, as the movement ended its fourth week.
Protests erupted after public outrage over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was arrested by the Iranian ethics police in Tehran for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. The Iranian government insists Amini was not mistreated in police custody, but her family said her body had bruises and other signs of beatings after she was detained.
On Sunday, Iran’s Parliament released a statement asserting that Amini did not die of any physical attack but that she had fallen and that the police had waited too long to receive treatment for her. It called on the police to issue an apology and give more training to its staff. It suggested police wear cameras on their uniforms and install them in cars used to transfer detainees.
President Joe Biden, on a trip to Oregon, said the Iranian government was “very oppressive” and that he had “great respect for those marching in the streets.”
Evin prison, which houses detainees who face security-related charges and includes two citizens, has been accused by human rights groups of abusing prisoners. The facility has long been known to house political prisoners as well as those with Western ties, who have been used by Iran as a bargaining chip in international negotiations.


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