Iranian officials say prison fire killed 4; families of 2 American prisoners say they are safe

A towering blaze at a infamous jail housing political prisoners and anti-government activists in Iran’s capital killed 4 inmates, the nation’s judiciary mentioned Sunday. The dramatic scenes of the nighttime hearth have reverberated throughout Iranian social media.

Flames and thick smoke rising from Tehran’s Evin Prison had been broadly seen Saturday night, as nationwide anti-government protests triggered by the loss of life of a younger lady in police custody entered a fifth week. In on-line movies, gunshots and explosions may very well be heard within the space of the jail.

The blaze was extinguished after a number of hours and no detainees escaped, state media mentioned.

The households of two Individuals imprisoned there, Siamak Namazi and Emad Shargi, had been each protected as of Sunday morning, CBS Information’ Margaret Brennan studies. Namazi has spoken to his household, in accordance with his lawyer, Jared Genser. 

Shargi’s sister and daughter informed Brennan on Sunday that that they had spoken to him. Shargi has been imprisoned in Iran since 2018, and his sister, Neda Shargi, tweeted on Saturday, “We as soon as once more implore President Biden to do what he must get Emad out of hazard and again residence to the US.”

Iran Protests
This picture launched by Mizan Information Company, exhibits a workshop of Evin jail following a hearth in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. A towering blaze on the jail housing political prisoners and anti-government activists killed 4 inmates, the nation’s judiciary mentioned. 

Koosha Mahshid Falahi / AP

Authorities have tried to distance the occasions on the jail from the continued protests, whereas state media has provided conflicting accounts of the violence. Tons of are being held at Evin, the place human rights teams have reported repeated abuses of prisoners.

Households of inmates gathered Sunday close to the jail hoping for information of their family members inside.

Masoumeh, 49, who solely gave her first title, mentioned her 19-year-old son was taken to the jail two weeks in the past after participating on the street protests. “I can’t belief information about his well being, I must see him carefully,” she mentioned.

One other man, Reza, who additionally gave solely his first title, mentioned his brother has been in Evin Jail since final yr after he was concerned in a violent quarrel. 

“He didn’t name us in latest days and following final evening’s hearth I’m right here to study what occurred to him,” he mentioned.

State media initially reported 9 individuals had been injured, however the judiciary-affiliated web site Mizan.information on Sunday mentioned 4 inmates died of smoke inhalation, and 61 others had been injured. It mentioned all 4 who died had been in jail on theft convictions.

Ten inmates had been hospitalized, with 4 of them in severe situation, Mizan reported. It mentioned some prisoners had tried to flee however failed.

State TV on Sunday aired video purporting to indicate the fireplace’s aftermath of scorched partitions and ceilings in a room it mentioned was the higher flooring of a stitching workshop on the jail.

“This fireplace was attributable to a struggle between some prisoners in a stitching workshop,” mentioned Tehran Gov. Mohsen Mansouri.

Iranian social media posts challenged state media claims over the reason for the fireplace and obvious explosions on the jail. Former inmate of Evin and rights activist Atena Daemi mentioned in a Tweet Sunday that usually, all prisoners are despatched to their wards and the workshops closed by sundown.

The European Union’s prime diplomat Josep Borrell expressed his “most severe concern” to Iran’s international minister and referred to as for “most transparency on the state of affairs” following the jail blaze and obvious violence.

Iranian authorities are chargeable for the lives of “all detainees, together with human rights defenders and EU nationals,” Borrell mentioned in a Tweet Sunday.

Iran’s state-run IRNA information company reported Saturday that there have been clashes between prisoners in a single ward and jail personnel, citing a senior safety official. The official mentioned “rioters” set hearth to a warehouse stuffed with jail uniforms, which prompted the blaze.

The official mentioned the “state of affairs is totally underneath management” and that firefighters had been extinguishing the flames. Later, Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi mentioned that calm had returned to the jail and that the unrest was not associated to the protests which have swept the nation for 4 weeks.

The U.S.-based Heart for Human Rights in Iran reported that an “armed battle” broke out throughout the jail partitions. It mentioned pictures had been first heard in Ward 7 of the jail. This account couldn’t instantly be corroborated.

Footage of the fireplace circulated on-line. Movies confirmed pictures ringing out as plumes of smoke rose into the sky amid the sound of an alarm. A protest broke out on the road quickly after, with many chanting “Demise to the Dictator!” — a reference to Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and burning tires, the movies confirmed.

On-line video of the jail hearth appeared to indicate projectiles being launched into the jail’s space by safety forces, adopted by the sound of not less than two explosions. It wasn’t instantly clear what sort of rounds Iranian safety forces used within the incident.

Witnesses mentioned that police blocked roads and highways to Evin and that not less than three sturdy explosions had been heard coming from the world. Visitors was heavy alongside main freeways close to the jail, which is within the north of the capital, and many individuals honked to indicate their solidarity with protests.

Riot police had been seen using on motorbikes towards the power, as had been ambulances and firetrucks. Witnesses reported that the web was blocked within the space.

Evin Jail, which holds detainees dealing with security-related costs and contains twin residents, has been charged by rights teams with abusing inmates. The power has lengthy been identified for holding political prisoners in addition to these with ties to the West who’ve been utilized by Iran as bargaining chips in worldwide negotiations.

Iranian officers have downplayed the specter of anti-government protests within the nation even because the variety of deaths and arrests has swelled. Rights teams say over 200 protesters have been killed since demonstrations swept Iran on Sept. 17. Over two dozen safety drive members have been killed within the unrest, in accordance with Iranian authorities.

Wider protests within the northern metropolis of Ardebil erupted following studies a youngster, Asra Panahi, died after police confronted protesting ladies at a highschool. Official denied the report saying she died due to a power coronary heart drawback and police didn’t hit her.

The protests erupted after public outrage over the loss of life of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict gown code. Iran’s authorities insists Amini was not mistreated in police custody, however her household says her physique confirmed bruises and different indicators of beating after she was detained.

President Biden, on a trip to Oregon Saturday, mentioned the Iranian “authorities is so oppressive” and that he had an “huge quantity of respect for individuals marching within the streets.”

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