Eight Iranian inmates were killed in a fire that raged through Tehran’s Evin prison on Saturday, the Iranian judiciary said on Monday, doubling the official toll from the blaze that has increased pressure on the government as it struggles to contain mass protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
A view of the aftermath of the fire in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. (Photo: Reuters)
By India Today Web Desk: Eight inmates were killed in a fire that raged through Tehran’s Evin prison on Saturday, the Iranian judiciary said on Monday, doubling the official toll from the blaze that has increased pressure on the government as it struggles to contain mass protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
Authorities in the Islamic republic have blamed the fire late Saturday on “riots and clashes” among prisoners, but human rights groups said they doubted the official version of events and feared the real toll could be even higher.
Iran’s judiciary said on Monday that four Evin prison inmates injured in the fire had died in hospital, after reporting the previous day an initial toll of four dead from smoke inhalation.
The judiciary said the blaze on Saturday evening was started by prisoners in a workshop after a fight. All were from a section of the prison for inmates jailed for robbery-related crimes, it said.
A major fire broke out at the Evin prison in Tehran, which shelters many political prisoners and Iranians with dual nationalities, with witnesses claiming to have heard firing and gunshots from inside the complex.
Judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Monday that the fire was “a crime committed by a few elements linked to the enemy”.
But Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said it “rejects” the official account of clashes between non-political prisoners unrelated to the protests, citing the “long history of concealing facts” in the Islamic republic.
“The number of those killed in Evin prison is probably higher than the official count,” it added.
Activists noted further confusion when state television announced Sunday that 40 people had been killed in the prison, only to correct this back to the initial toll of four just minutes later.
The fire came after four weeks of protests over the death of 22-year-old Amini, following her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.
The unrest has turned into one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with protesters calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, even if the protests do not seem close to toppling the system.
Hundreds of protesters arrested in recent weeks have been sent to Evin, infamous for the ill-treatment of political prisoners, which also holds foreign detainees and thousands jailed on criminal charges. Evin was blacklisted by the U.S. government in 2018 for “serious human rights abuses.”
Protests were held on Sunday in the aftermath of the Evin fire, including at the Tehran and Shariati universities where women chanted “we are all Mahsa!”
IHR said many prisoners had been transferred to Gohardasht prison in Karaj west of Tehran in the aftermath of the fire.
WESTERN COUNTRIES IMPOSE SANCTIONS, EU TO FOLLOW SUIT
Meanwhile, the European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc expected “maximum transparency on the situation” at Evin.
The EU agreed to level new sanctions, endorsed by its foreign ministers on Monday, targeting the morality police, Information Minister Eisa Zarepour and the cyber division of its Revolutionary Guards over Amini’s death and repression of subsequent protests. They will be subject to EU visa bans and asset freezes.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Naser Kanani said Tehran would give an “immediate response” to the sanctions.
Tehran’s tough crackdown on protests, which include people from all layers of society, has drawn sharp international criticism from the West. The United States, Britain and Canada have already announced sanctions against Iran over rights violations.
Iran has accused countries who have expressed support for the protests of meddling in their internal affairs, including President Ebrahim Raisi, who on Sunday blamed his US counterpart for inciting “chaos, terror, and destruction” in Iran.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)