A fire that swept through part of Iran’s infamous Evin prison damaged one of the complex’s larger buildings, according to satellite photos analyzed on Monday, as authorities raised the death toll in the still-unclear incident, saying at least eight prisoners They were killed.
What happened Saturday night in the prison – which houses both inmates convicted on criminal charges of political prisoners held by the country’s competing intelligence weapons – remains unclear. The online videos purport to show chaotic scenes with a prison siren screaming as flames rise from the complex, the apparent crackle of gunfire and people screaming “Death to the dictator!”
The fire erupted when nationwide anti-government protests triggered by the death of a young woman after being detained by the country’s moral police entered week five.
Tensions in Iran have escalated to an unprecedented point since the mass demonstrations that accompanied the country’s Green Movement protests in 2009. A fire in one of Tehran’s most guarded facilities could raise the stakes for those who continue to demonstrate against the government and the mandatory headscarf, or hijab, for women after Mahsa Amini’s death.
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Satellite photos taken Sunday by Planet Labs PBC and analyzed by the Associated Press show the burning roof of a large building that is part of the northern section of Evin prison.
The Iran Prison Atlas, a California-based human rights group United for Iran project that collects data on Iranian prisons and prisoners, had previously identified the facility’s wards as housing for prisoners convicted of fraud and theft, not those detained on political charges. However, the Iran Prison Atlas warned that wards have changed over the years.
The reformist newspaper Etemad on Monday quoted Mostafa Nili, a lawyer for some political prisoners in Evin, who identified one of the affected areas as Ward 8. He described those imprisoned there as political prisoners serving sentences imposed by the courts and others convicted for financial reasons charges.
He also said that political prisoners in ward 4 of the prison inhaled tear gas during the incident. Semi-official news agency Tasnim also said Evin’s Wards 6 and 7 also suffered damage. Iranian state television rushed a television crew to the site Sunday morning, filming a reporter walking through a ward with prisoners asleep in bunks as firefighters put out the flames. The TV described the fire as occurring in a sewing workshop.
The Iranian judiciary on Monday raised the death toll from the fire to eight.
The authorities accused the “rioters” of setting the fire, although they did not describe what measures they took against the prisoners on the spot. The video of the fire purports to show people on the roof of the building, throwing liquid at the flames at first. Apparent gunfire echoes through other videos, including what appears to be some sort of ordinance thrown into the prison complex, followed by the sound of an explosion.
As the fire escalated, a video includes voices shouting: “Death to the dictator!” That cry against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has become commonplace in Tehran at night amid protests, even if it carries the risk of a death sentence in a revolutionary court behind closed doors.
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The protests erupted after public outrage over the death of 22-year-old Amini in police custody. She was arrested by the Iranian police for morality in Tehran for violating the strict dress code of the Islamic Republic. The Iranian government insists Amini was not abused in police custody, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beatings after she was detained.
Evin Prison, which holds detainees facing security-related charges, including dual citizenship, has been accused by human rights groups of abusing detainees. The facility has long been known for holding political prisoners and those with ties to the West who have been used by Iran as a bargaining chip in international negotiations.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers were examining the imposition of sanctions on Iranian officials for their suspicious role in cracking down on protests. They were expected to agree to slap travel bans and asset freezes.
“It is very important to sanction those responsible for the atrocities against the Iranian people, the young people who are demonstrating for their fundamental rights,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod in Luxembourg told reporters, urging “a strong stance. and strong here “. “
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Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the EU “must send a signal that this is not acceptable”.
Subsequently, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said the EU will target 11 officials and four “entities”, which are often security agencies, government departments, companies or banks. He did not provide details.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the EU “cannot and will not close its eyes” in the face of repression in Iran. You said the bloc’s foreign ministers “will launch an additional specific sanctions package that takes those responsible into account”.
Iran’s morality police will be on the list, he said, but declined to say how many individuals and entities will be sanctioned before formal decisions.
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“It is also clear that if this regime continues to punch its population in this way, there will be further packages of targeted sanctions against those responsible,” he said.