Iranian officials say Tehran jail fire killed 4 inmates, none escaped – Boston News, Weather, Sports

CAIRO (AP) — A towering blaze at a notorious prison housing political prisoners and anti-government activists in the Iranian capital killed four inmates, the country’s judiciary said on Sunday. The dramatic scenes of the night fire resonated on Iranian social media.

Flames and thick smoke billowed widely from Tehran’s Evin prison on Saturday night as nationwide anti-government protests sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody entered their fifth week. Gunshots and explosions were heard in online videos in the area of ​​the prison.

The fire was extinguished after several hours and no detainees escaped, state media said.

Authorities have tried to distance events in prison from the ongoing protests, while state media have offered conflicting accounts of the violence. Hundreds are being held in Evin, where human rights groups have reported repeated ill-treatment of detainees.

Families of inmates gathered near the prison on Sunday hoping for news from their loved ones inside.

Masoumeh, 49, who gave only her first name, said her 19-year-old son was taken to jail two weeks ago after taking part in the 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 first name, said his brother has been in Evin prison since last year after being involved in a heated argument. “He hasn’t called us in the last few days and after last night’s fire I’m here to find out what happened to him,” he said.

State media originally reported nine people were injured, but judiciary-affiliated website Mizan.news said on Sunday four inmates died from smoke inhalation and 61 others were injured. All four of the dead were said to have been in prison for robbery.

Ten inmates were hospitalized, four of them in serious condition, Mizan reported. It was said that some prisoners tried to escape but failed.

State television aired a video on Sunday that allegedly showed the aftermath of the fire, with walls and ceilings scorched, in a room said to be the top floor of a prison sewing workshop.

“This fire was caused by a fight between some prisoners in a sewing workshop,” Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansouri said.

Iranian social media posts questioned state media’s claims about the cause of the fire and the apparent explosions at the prison. Former Evin inmate and rights activist Atena Daemi said in a tweet on Sunday that normally all prisoners are sent to their wards and the workshops close at sundown.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, expressed his “greatest concern” to Iran’s foreign minister and called for “maximum transparency on the situation” following the prison fire and apparent violence.

Iranian authorities are responsible for the lives of “all those detained, including human rights defenders and EU citizens,” Borrell said in a tweet on Sunday.

Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA, citing a senior security official, reported on Saturday that there had been clashes between prisoners in a department and prison staff. The official said “rioters” set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, which caused the fire.

The officer said the “situation is fully under control” and firefighters doused the flames. Later, Tehran’s prosecutor Ali Salehi said calm had returned to the prison and the unrest had nothing to do with the protests that have shaken the country for four weeks.

The US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that an “armed conflict” had broken out within the prison walls. The first shots were said to have been heard in Ward 7 of the prison. This invoice could not be confirmed immediately.

Footage of the fire circulated online. Videos showed gunshots ringing out as plumes of smoke rose into the sky while an alarm sounded. Shortly thereafter, a protest broke out in the streets, with many shouting “Death to the dictator!” – a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – and burning tires, the videos showed.

Online video of the prison fire appeared to show projectiles being fired into the prison area by security guards, followed by the sound of at least two explosions. It was not immediately clear what type of rounds Iranian security forces were using in the incident.

Witnesses said police blocked roads and highways into Evin and at least three powerful explosions were heard from the area. Traffic was heavy on the major highways near the prison in the north of the capital, and many people honked their horns to show their solidarity with the protests.

Riot police were driven towards the facility on motorcycles, as were ambulances and fire engines. Witnesses reported that the internet was blocked in the area.

The prison fire came as protesters stepped up anti-government demonstrations along main roads and at universities in the capital and other cities across Iran on Saturday. Human rights monitors reported hundreds dead, including children, as the movement ended its fourth week.

Larger protests erupted in the northern city of Ardebil after a teenager, Asra Panahi, reportedly died after police confronted protesting girls at a high school. The officer denied the report, saying she died of a chronic heart problem and that police did not beat her.

The protests erupted after public outrage over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was arrested by the Iranian Vice Police in Tehran for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. The Iranian government insists Amini was not ill-treated while in police custody, but her family says her body bore bruises and other signs of beatings after her arrest.

President Joe Biden, on a trip to Oregon, said the Iranian government is “so repressive” and that he has “tremendous respect for people who march in the streets.”

Evin Prison, which holds inmates on security-related charges and also houses dual nationals, has been accused by rights groups of inmate abuse. The facility has long been known for holding political prisoners and those with Western ties who were used by Iran as bargaining chips in international negotiations.

Iranian officials have downplayed the danger of anti-government protests in the country, even as the number of deaths and arrests has swelled. Rights groups say over 200 protesters have been killed since demonstrations swept Iran on September 17. According to the Iranian authorities, more than two dozen members of the security forces were killed in the unrest.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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https://whdh.com/news/iranian-officials-say-tehran-prison-fire-killed-4-inmates-none-escape/ Iranian officials say Tehran jail fire killed 4 inmates, none escaped – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Sarah Y. Kim

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