Oct. 15 (BP) — A major fire broke out Saturday night at Iran’s notorious Evin prison, known for housing hundreds of political prisoners and journalists.
Mohsen Mansouri, the governor of Tehran, told Iran’s state news agency IRNA that prisoners had started a fire in the facility’s sewing workshop which has “been contained and extinguished.”Mansouri said that eight people were injured during the incident and no deaths have been reported.
Gunshots and explosions could be seen and heard in video footage from social media published by the BBC, which reported that the prison appeared to have been hit by an object fired from outside the prison – seemingly contradicting Mansouri’s account.
Ned Price, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that officials are following reports from the prison “with urgency.”
“We are in contact with the Swiss as our protecting power,” Price said in a statement. “Iran is fully responsible for the safety of our wrongfully detained citizens, who should be released immediately.”
Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general for human rights organization Amnesty International, reminded Iranian authorities on Twitter of their “legal obligation to respect and protect the lives and wellbeing of all the prisoners.”
The fire comes as protests continue to sweep across Iran after Mahsa Amini, 22, died when she was detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.
Protests on Saturday escalated further after video surfaced of a police officer apparently groping a woman in a crowd.
Iranian authorities said Saturday they were aware of the videos and would investigate, without elaborating.
Earlier in the week, hundreds of oil workers joined anti-government protests over alleged human rights violations.
The strike at the Bushehr and Damavand petrochemical plants in the southern Iranian port town of Assaluyeh involved more than 1,000 workers who blocked roads and chanted “Death to the dictator!”
That same chant could be heard coming from outside of the prison on Saturday, according to video posted on social media by anti-government monitoring group 1500tasvir.
The prison was constructed in 1972 under the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains.