Details of a chaotic night marked by tear gas and explosions emerged at an Iranian prison on Saturday after a deadly fire at the facility.
The state-aligned Tasnim news agency tweeted on Monday that the death toll from the fire at Tehran’s Evan prison had risen to eight. An earlier report by Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted Iranian authorities as saying dozens of people were injured after prisoners set fire to a warehouse.
The facility, known for its brutality, is known for holding political prisoners in a country that has seen mass protests in recent weeks against the Islamic regime that has ruled the country for decades.
Jafar Panahi, the 62-year-old award-winning film director who was among the dissidents imprisoned in Evin, said guards fired tear gas at prisoners, according to his wife, Tahereh Saeedi.
In an interview with Farda Radio, the Iranian arm of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Saeedi said her husband called her from prison to tell her that he and imprisoned filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof were in good health.
Saeedi added that it was the worst time of her life from the fire on Saturday night until she got a call from her husband the next day.
The militant group 1500tasvir earlier reported that in a video posted on social media, gunfire could be heard and Iranian special forces could be seen heading to the area where the prison is believed to be located.
Sources inside the prison told pro-reform outlet IranWire that guards fired tear gas throughout the night after the fire. In many cases, prisoners had to break windows to breathe, the Iranian Telegraph reported.
In a Twitter post on Sunday, human rights activist and former Evan prisoner Atena Daemi said security officials fired tear gas at a female prisoner.
Daemi said the prisoners in Ward 8 had no water, gas or bread, and 45 of them were moved to “an unknown place”. “Everyone is fine now, but they fear being transferred to other prisons, solitary confinement and interrogation.”
Many inmates have been transferred to Rajaei Shahr prison, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Tehran, Mostafa Nili, a lawyer representing several of the inmates, said on Twitter. Video from IranWire shows a bus taking prisoners away from Evin.
All eight prisoners who died were jailed for theft, Tasnim said on Monday, citing the Iranian Judicial Media Center.
Jailed journalist Niloofar Hamedi is also safe after Saturday’s fire, according to a tweet from her husband Mohamad Hosein.
“She told me she didn’t know what happened at Evin last night, but she said she heard terrible noises and thought something terrible had happened,” Hosein said his wife told him, adding that she was doing fine .
Hussain said Khamedi was being held in Section 209 of Avon — notorious for housing prisoners of conscience — and had no information about other areas of the prison.
Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American who was detained in Iran for seven years and forced to return to prison on Wednesday after a brief leave of absence, is also safe, according to the Namazi family attorney Jared Genser.
Genser said Namazi was moved to a secure area of the prison and spoke to his family.
Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi told state broadcaster IRIB earlier that the “clash” at the prison was not related to protests that swept the country after the death of a young woman in police custody.
In September, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being detained by the country’s ethics police for allegedly wearing a headscarf incorrectly. Iranian authorities have since carried out a brutal and deadly crackdown on demonstrators who have united around a range of grievances against the country’s authoritarian regime.
“No prisoner is safe in Iran, where people are maimed or killed for criticizing the state,” Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based Center for Independent Human Rights in Iran, tweeted on Sunday. “Evan and Iranian political prisoners should be released. All prisoners deserve proper medical treatment + access to lawyers/family.”
Ghaemi also urged the United Nations to hold Iran’s leaders accountable in a call by Amnesty International Secretary-General and former UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.
Callamard tweeted on Sunday that a special session of the UN Human Rights Council should be convened to establish a “UN mechanism for investigation and accountability of the Iranian government and religious authorities,” citing “too many crimes committed against the Iranian people.” “.