This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)
A huge fire blazed Saturday at a notorious prison where political prisoners and anti-government activists are kept in the Iranian capital, injuring at least nine people, according to state media. Online videos and local media reported gunshots, as nationwide protests entered a fifth week.
Iran’s state-run IRNA reported there were clashes between prisoners in one ward and prison personnel, citing a senior security official. The official said prisoners set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, which caused the blaze. He said the “rioters” were separated from the other prisoners to de-escalate the conflict.
The official said that the “situation is completely under control” and that firefighters were extinguishing the flames. Later, Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said that “peace” had returned to the prison and that the unrest was not related to the protests which have swept the country for four weeks.
IRNA later reported nine people had been injured, without elaborating. It published video showing burnt debris scattered around a building, with firefighters spraying down the blaze’s embers.
Footage of the fire circulated online. Videos showed shots ringing out as plumes of smoke rose into the sky amid the sound of an alarm. A protest broke out on the street soon after, with many chanting “Death to the Dictator!” — a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and burning tires, circulating videos showed.
Witnesses said that police blocked roads and highways to Evin prison and that at least three strong explosions were heard coming from the area. Traffic was heavy along major motorways near the prison, which is in the north of the capital, and many people honked to show their solidarity with protests.
Riot police were seen riding on motorbikes toward the facility, as were ambulances and firetrucks. Witnesses reported that the internet was blocked in the area.
The U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that an “armed conflict” broke out within the prison walls. It said shots were first heard in Ward 7 of the prison. This account could not immediately be corroborated.