Eyewitnesses have told Iran International that a mysterious blaze in Tehran’s Evin prison last week was a government scheme to fake a jail break to kill prisoners.

In an exclusive report on Thursday, our correspondent also cited several witnesses as saying that the number of prisoners killed in this incident was way more than eight people officials claimed.

One of the witnesses, identified as Mosayyeb Raisi Yeganeh -- a political prisoner who was imprisoned in Ward 8 of Evin prison on charges of insulting the Supreme Leader and propaganda against the regime – said he saw with his own eyes that in one case, 10 to 15 young prisoners of Ward 7 under the age of 25 were gunned down during the night.

According to him, the authorities had plotted to use the fire as a pretext to pretend that prisoners were trying to escape and kill whoever they wanted during the mayhem, adding that several of the prisoners who were reported to be hospitalized in the jail’s infirmary are not there at all.

He also claimed that Hassan Mirkazemi -- one of the regime’s insiders and one of those who led the crackdown on people during 2009 protests, and was serving a term for economic corruption – was transferred from the prison before the chaotic night.

Evin prison before and Fter (L) the blaze on October 15, 2022

Following the blaze, some journalists and people on social media accused the Islamic Republic of setting the prison on fire intentionally, citing an early and extended furlough to Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, son of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as evidence to support their claim. The prison authorities had furloughed several other important and well-connected prisoners in the days leading to the fire. The son of senior conservative lawmaker Mostafa Mir-Salim – imprisoned over connections with exiled Albania-based opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) organization -- was also let out before the incident.

Two other witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the government planned the fire and the fake escape plan of prisoners to suppress the protests that have been growing in solidarity with the nationwide protests, that convulsed Iran since mid-September when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody of hijab police.

The interior of the hall that was engulfed by falmes at Evin Prison. Oct. 15, 2022

Six sources told Reuters on Thursday that two days before the fire ripped through a section of the notorious prison, a riot police unit arrived at the compound and began to patrol the corridors, shouting "God is Greatest" and banging batons on cell doors.

The patrols at the jail began without any apparent provocation by inmates, the sources said. These patrols continued from Thursday to Saturday when some prisoners reacted by shouting for the downfall of the Supreme Leader. "Then we heard shots and chants of 'Death to Khamenei' by prisoners in other wards," said an inmate inside Ward 8.

According to unconfirmed reports, three busloads of political prisoners were also taken to a prison near Tehran, known to be a slaughterhouse for prisoners.

Tasnim news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard quoted a judicial official after midnight on October 15 that a riot had started in the wards where common criminals were kept and sections holding political prisoners were separate.

The prison has been the main site for holding prominent Iranian political prisoners as well as foreigners and dual nationals. It also holds inmates convicted of ordinary crimes and is now receiving a stream of dissidents arrested in the continuing wave of unrest sweeping the country. The prison is known as "Evin University" because of the many antigovernment intellectuals and academics held there.

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