Iran Evin Prison Death Toll Jumps, State Says

The death toll from a fire at Iran’s notorious Evin prison has risen from four to eight, Iran’s judiciary has said in a statement.

Officials said dozens more were injured in the blaze at the jail in Tehran on Saturday night.

Hundreds of those taking part in anti-government protests which have swept the country for the past month have been sent to Evin prison.

It is not clear whether the incident at the jail was connected to the unrest.

The judiciary said the fire began in a prison workshop after a fight among inmates. State TV said it was a “premeditated” escape plan, which the head of prisons in Tehran said was foiled by the security forces.

However, a witness inside the prison told BBC Persian that prisoners had not set fire to the site.

Meanwhile, protests continued overnight, including in neighbourhoods of Tehran.

In video from the north-east district of Narmak, chants of “Death to the dictator” – a reference to Iran’s supreme leader – among others can be heard in the dark.

Elsewhere, in Ekbatan in western Tehran, a crowd of protesters chanted anti-government slogans, while video showed a group cheering as a woman burnt her hijab on a bonfire lit by protesters.

The protests erupted one month ago in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini in police custody. Officials said she died of a heart attack, but her family dispute this, saying she was beaten by morality police.

The demonstrations quickly spread across the country, mounting the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.

Iranian security forces have used force including live fire, beatings and mass arrests to try to put down the protests. Human rights groups say at least 200 people have been killed, though the true figure is believed to be much higher.

The BBC and other independent media are banned from reporting from inside Iran, while authorities have disrupted the internet and social media tools, making it difficult to know outside what is happening.

Iranians, however, are still managing to post video of protests and incidents which have been verified by the BBC.

Videos shared online showed flames and smoke at Evin prison amid the sound of gunshots and explosions on Saturday night.

Speaking from inside the prison, Tehran’s governor told state TV that there was a riot in a wing of the prison housing petty criminals. Pictures showed the wing totally gutted by the fire.

Some journalists on social media accused the authorities of “setting the prison ablaze intentionally” as a high-profile political prisoner was sent home before it broke out.

Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani – son of Iran’s late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – was given “early temporary release”, according to his brother.

Burnt-out wing at Evin prison (16/10/22)IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES Image caption, A wing of the prison was gutted by the fire

One video posted online appeared to show objects fired into the prison from outside its perimeter, followed by the sound of an explosion.

Families and lawyers of prisoners had not been allowed near the jail and roads were blocked, the family of a political prisoner told BBC Persian.

However, later some prisoners were able to reach out to their families to tell them that they were safe.

The prison has long been criticised by Western rights groups. Human Rights Watch has accused authorities at the prison of using threats of torture and of indefinite imprisonment, as well as lengthy interrogations and denial of medical care for detainees.

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