A fire breakout in the notorious prison housing political prisoners and anti-government activists in Iran’s capital killed four inmates, according to reports
Flames and thick smoke rising from Tehran’s Evin Penitentiary had been widely visible Saturday evening, as nationwide anti-government protests triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody entered a fifth week.
It seems the fire started at nighttime as the blaze and thick smoke kept hovering over the penitentiary building, while inmates ran helter-skelter.
In online videos, gunshots and explosions could be heard in the area of the jail. Video of the fire circulated online. Videos showed shots ringing out as plumes of smoke rose into the sky amid the sound of an alarm.
Videos circulating online also appeared to show projectiles being launched into the jail’s area by security forces, followed by the sound of at least two explosions.
Authorities have tried to turn away the events at the prison from the ongoing protests, while state media have given conflicting accounts of the violence.
Hundreds are being held at Evin, where human rights groups have reported repeated abuses of prisoners.
The judiciary-affiliated website Mizan.news on Sunday said four inmates died of smoke inhalation and 61 others were injured. It said all four who died were in jail on robbery convictions.
Ten inmates were hospitalized, with four of them in serious condition, Mizan reported. Families of inmates gathered Sunday near the jail hoping for news of their loved ones inside.
Masoumeh, 49, who gave only her first name, said her 19-year-old son was taken to the penitentiary two weeks ago after taking part in the street protests. She said:
“I cannot trust news about his health, I need to see him closely,” she said.
The source of the fire has not been confirmed yet. Although, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday that there were clashes between prisoners in one ward and prison personnel, citing a senior security official.