Smoke and gunfire at a prison in Tehran holding political prisoners with dual nationalities

DUBAI (Reuters) – A shooting broke out in a Tehran prison on Saturday holding political prisoners and dual nationals, witnesses said, and smoke could be seen rising above the prison.

State media quoted a security official as blaming “criminal elements” for the unrest that erupted after nearly a month of protests across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.

The official said calm had returned, but a witness said gunfire could still be heard.

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“The roads to Evin prison are closed to traffic. There are a lot of ambulances here,” said a witness contacted by Reuters. “We can still hear gunshots.”

Another witness said that families of prisoners gathered in front of the main entrance to the prison. They said, “I can see fire and smoke. Lots of special forces. Ambulances are here too.”

The activist website 1500tasvir published video footage that it said showed special forces on motorbikes heading to the prison.

The prison mostly holds detainees facing security charges, including dual Iranians. It has long been criticized by Western rights groups and blacklisted by the US government in 2018 for “serious human rights violations”.

His lawyer said Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American imprisoned for nearly seven years on espionage charges dismissed by Washington as baseless, returned to Evin on Wednesday after taking a short leave.

Human Rights Watch accused the prison authorities of using threats of torture and indefinite imprisonment, as well as lengthy interrogations and denial of medical care for detainees.

The unrest in Evin prison came after nearly a month of protests across Iran since Amini – a 22-year-old woman from the country’s Kurdish region – died on September 16 while being held for “improper dress”.

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The protests posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

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Reporting from the Dubai office Writing by Dominic Evans Editing by Helen Popper and William MacLean

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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