At least eight prisoners have been killed after a fire broke out at a notorious prison in Tehran, Iran’s judiciary has said.

The blaze at Evin prison broke out on Saturday night as nationwide anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody entered their fifth week.

The judiciary’s Mizan news agency raised the death toll from four, saying the prisoners had died from their injuries on Sunday.

It said those killed had been held on theft charges. Evin also holds political prisoners and detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality.

Mizan described the incident as a “fight between inmates and a fire,” though offered no supporting evidence.

State media said the first four deaths were due to smoke inhalation and more than 60 had been injured.

Commentary in state newspaper Iran said counter-revolutionary forces planned the fire with the help of foreign intelligence services to keep international attention on unrest in the country.

“A review of its different dimensions of this event indicates due to the presence of these dual-national ‘spies’ or ‘spies’ who are citizens of western countries, this would attract sensitivity of those countries, igniting the protesters,” the newspaper said.

Image:
Smoke seen pouring out of the prison, in capital Tehran Pic: Twitter/IanBremner
Thick smoke rises from Evin prison in Tehran, Iran

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Flames and thick smoke could be seen rising from the prison in the capital city on Saturday night.

In online videos, gunshots and explosions could be heard in the area of the prison.

State media said the blaze was extinguished after several hours and no detainees escaped.

Authorities have attempted to put space between the events in the prison and the ongoing protests, while state media has offered conflicting accounts of the violence.

Human rights groups have alleged prisoners have been repeatedly abused in the jail.

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Why are Iranians protesting?

A ‘circle of hell’

It often holds prisoners with dual nationality, including the now freed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori.

Mr Ashoori previously revealed his struggle to survive during five years in Evin prison for a crime he did not commit.

He described the jail as a “circle of hell”, saying he had to beg guards for basic needs such as using the toilet.

He said he was interrogated “day after day from eight in the morning right to 10 or 11 in the evening”, as his captors made threats against his family, showing him pictures of his wife and children and warning he would never see them again.