IRAN: Four prisoners have died and 61 grievously injured following a major fire that ravaged Iran’s most notorious prison complex named Evin, according to an Iranian state news agency.
The heavily-guarded prison is famous for housing political prisoners. Sources inside the prison notified the media officials that the number of casualties may be much higher than preliminarily projected.
Online videos showed flames and smoke rising up from the site in Tehran, and many gunshots and explosions could be heard while the fire was still raging. Dramatic footage of the fire and smoke engulfing the prison complex was first posted on social media on Saturday evening.
Amid the chaos. Several protesters could be heard chanting “death to the dictator”– one of the main slogans of the series of anti-government protests. This incident becomes another concerning fiasco in a troubled country, gripped by violence, outrage and public demonstrations, for weeks now.
The social unrest was prompted last month by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini who allegedly died in police custody after she was detained by Iran’s morality police over her “unsuitable attire”.
Police officials claim she died of a heart attack but her family disputed this, saying she was repeatedly beaten by police, specifically bludgeoned on the head.
Amini’s protests have created a massive wave of protests across Iran, posing the most audacious challenge to the Islamic republic since its inception in 1979.Many of those who died in the protests were teenagers.
The media officials added that it is unknown at this time whether the prison’s status is connected to the recent protests and given that Evin has received hundreds of protesters, this is conceivably the case. Outside the prison, a sizable crowd gathered, traffic halted, and riot police were spotted entering the building.
The news officials reported that the situation at the prison was still unclear despite claims to the contrary by Iranian media. Videos of the flames and the sound of gunfire continued to circulate on social media.
The media officials continued that other photos showed prisoners on the roof of a portion of the prison where political prisoners and many of the protestors who have been detained in the previous four weeks are confined.
The families of several inmates were worried that they had not received any messages or phone calls since it was later discovered that the internet connection was cut off during the time. Later on, though, some prisoners were able to contact their loved ones and let them know they were safe.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual citizen of both Britain and Iran, and Anoosheh Ashoori were both imprisoned in the Evin prison for a number of years on suspicion of spying until being freed earlier this year.
The prison has long been criticised by Western human rights organisations for its brutal treatment of political prisoners detained there, who are often assaulted, threatened with torture and life sentences, subjected to protracted interrogations, and denied access to medical care.
In August of last year, a group of hackers going by the name Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice) shared films of leaked surveillance footage from the Evin prison showing guards abusing or beating inmates.
Some foreign governments have expressed concerns for its citizens currently detained at the prison over reports of alleged torture and ill-treatment.
The US State Department added that it was monitoring the situation with “urgency,” while the UK Government’s security minister called it a “very worrying development.”