A fire killed eight detainees at Iran’s Evin prison near Terhan, which has for decades housed political prisoners as well as those convicted of criminal charges, according to reporting by The Associated Press.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the country’s Intelligence Ministry both operate their own cells at Evin, holding dual-nationals and prisoners with connections with the West, reported AP.
The fire started in the prison’s eighth ward that houses political prisoners. Iran Prison Atlas, a California-based rights group that collects data on Iranian prisons and prisoners, said the fire started in a sewing workshop.
Satellite photos show the burning roof of a large building in the northern section of the prison. A video of the fire purports to show people throwing liquid on the flames. Audio from other videos includes what appears to be gunfire and the sound of an explosion from an unidentified ordinance tossed into the complex, reported AP.
Authorities have blamed “rioters” for the fire. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, Iran’s judiciary chief, blamed “the enemy’s agents” for the incident, referring to outside actors including the United States and Israel.
The regime has generally blamed the same outside influences for unrest in Iran over the weeks leading up to the fire in the prison. The unrest followed the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died in the custody of the regime’s morality police.
According to human rights activists, Evin prison has a long history of abuses. It has been the site of executions and amputations prescribed as punishments under the country’s Islamic laws, said the AP article.
The AP reports that it received a series of videos leaked by a group of hackers that showed fighting and “grim conditions” at Evin.
Jason Razaian, a journalist with The Washington Post who spent 544 days in an Iranian prison on allegations of spying, commented on conditions at Evin prison.
“Evin is no ordinary prison. Many of Iran’s best and brightest have spent long stretches confined there, where brave women and men are denied their basic rights for speaking truth to power,” Razaian wrote on Twitter.
The European Union has sanctioned 11 Iranian officials and four additional entities over the protests, freezing assets and imposing travel bans.