A huge fire broke out on Saturday in Evin prison in Tehran, housing many Iranian political prisoners and anti-government activists. Gunshots were heard in the area, according to various media, as anti-government protests across the country – sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in custody – entered their fifth week.
Videos of the incident posted on various social media platforms showed flames and smoke billowing from the area. Iranian activist and journalist Masih Alinejad wrote on Twitter: “The infamous Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran is on fire. Reports indicate (for example) gunshots heard. The prisoners’ lives are in danger. The family members of the prisoners are shocked and horrified.”
In a brief clip of the incident, the reporter shared on her grip, sounds of what appeared to be gunfire could be heard as flames and a plume of smoke engulfed the night sky.
The facility is located in the foothills on the northern edge of the Iranian capital and has been the detention center for many Mahsa Amini protesters over the past few weeks. Notorious for the mistreatment of political prisoners, the prison was blacklisted by the US government in 2018 for “serious human rights abuses”.
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According to local media, clashes erupted between prisoners and prison staff, following which prisoners set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, causing the blaze.
“The situation is currently completely under control,” foreign news agencies reported, citing IRNA, a state body.
According to a press release from the Iranian justice, a workshop of the prison was set on fire “after a fight between several prisoners found guilty of financial crimes and theft”.
Tehran Fire Department said the cause of the incident is under investigation.
At least eight people are said to have been injured in the unrest; the flames are now extinguished.
Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said “peace” had returned to the prison and dismissed reports that the unrest was linked to anti-government protests that have gripped the country.
Iranians have been protesting for weeks over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died while being detained for “inappropriate dress”. The protests – which show little sign of abating despite a major government crackdown – have only spread, in a major challenge to the Islamic Republic. Some people have also called for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(With contributions from Reuters, AFP, AP)