A large fire spread in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison Saturday evening as gunshots and blasts were heard, with hundreds of political prisoners among the inmates.
Center for Human Rights in Iran said that it received reports of a “gun battle” in Evin prison Saturday night that was continuing at 22:00 local time (14:30 Washington DC time and 19:30 London time).
The human rights monitoring group said that gun shots were first heard in Ward 7 of the prison, housing inmates convicted for financial crimes, and then the confrontation spread to other parts of the prison.
At this early stage, this information cannot be verified and it is not clear who was firing weapons inside the prison.
The Tasnim news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard quoted a judicial official after midnight that a riot had started in the wards where common criminals are kept and sections holding political prisoners are separate. However, images showed a huge blaze engulfing most of the compound. The official also claimed that the incident was not related to ongoing protests in the country and calm had returned to Evin at around midnight.
These statements also can not be independently verified until perhaps Sunday when human rights monitors and other credible sources provide more concrete information.
A video tweeted from Tehran appears to show that some objects are lobbed at the prison from a distance and once they land explosion take place. If security forces were firing tear gas or another device at the compound, that can explain why the blaze spread quickly. Here is that video:
Special Police anti-riot forces heading to Evin at around 22:oo local time
Fars new agency also affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard confirmed after 22:00 local time that "a riot" took place in the prison by "common criminals" who got into an skirmish with guards and set the clothing depot of the prison on fire. Fars claimed that order has been reestablished and firefighters are extinguishing the blaze. However, eyewitnesses continues to report explosions and gunfire in the compound.
The anonymous group organizing the recent protests, called Tehran Youth, issued a statement calling on people to surround the Evin compound and not allow government forces to enter "to prevent a human tragedy."
This video shows the large blaze and explosion can be heard.
An interesting observation by some Tehran residents noted that the government opened access to the Internet and a few minutes later the news about Evin prison spread.
Photos and videos showed a large blaze in the compound and some reports said that guards at the observation towers had fled the prison amid the spreading fire. However, some guards must still be in the prison if guns are being fired.
Videos show ordinary people who heard about the incident have been trying to reach the prison, possibly in a bid to help the inmates. One video showed a large traffic jam of cars honking as they tried to reach Evin. Iran International learned that security forces fired tear gas at cars approaching Evin. Apparently one tear gas cylinder hit a car and set it ablaze.
People around the prison said special riot police have been firing tear gas both inside the prison at inmates who broken out of the buildings and also the crowd gathered outside.
The crowd outside were chanting "Death to the dictator".
An eyewitness says the explosions were so huge that the blast waves broke the windows of nearby houses.
One emergency worker at the scene told the official government news agency IRNA that no one had died but there were at least eight people injured. However, with multiple sounds of explosions and a huge blaze, it is hard to believe that an emergency crew member would have full information at this stage.