The death toll from a fire at Iran’s notorious Evin prison has risen from four to eight, Iran’s judiciary has said in a statement.

Officials said dozens more were injured in the blaze at the jail in Tehran on Saturday night.

Hundreds of those taking part in anti-government protests which have swept the country for the past month have been sent to Evin prison.

It is not clear whether the incident at the jail was connected to the unrest.

The judiciary said the fire began in a prison workshop after a fight among inmates. State TV said it was a “premeditated” escape plan, which the head of prisons in Tehran said was foiled by the security forces.

However, a witness inside the prison told BBC Persian that prisoners had not set fire to the site.

The prison has long been criticised by Western rights groups. Human Rights Watch has accused authorities at the prison of using threats of torture and of indefinite imprisonment, as well as lengthy interrogations and denial of medical care for detainees.

On Monday, the EU said it was imposing sanctions on 11 people and four organisations in Iran – including its morality police – in response to Iran’s crackdown on the protests.

The morality police – a force which ensures compliance with Iran’s Islamic values, including dress code – has borne the brunt of public anger and has been blamed for the death of a young woman in custody – an event which sparked the protests.

Protests continued overnight, including in neighbourhoods of Tehran.

In video from the north-east district of Narmak, chants of “Death to the dictator” – a reference to Iran’s supreme leader – among others can be heard in the dark.

Elsewhere, in Ekbatan in western Tehran, a crowd of protesters chanted anti-government slogans, while video showed a group cheering as a woman burnt her hijab on a bonfire lit by protesters.

The protests erupted one month ago in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini in police custody. Officials said she died of a heart attack, but her family dispute this, saying she was beaten by morality police.

The demonstrations quickly spread across the country, mounting the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.

Iranian security forces have used force including live fire, beatings and mass arrests to try to put down the protests. Human rights groups say at least 200 people have been killed, though the true figure is believed to be much higher.

The BBC and other independent media are banned from reporting from inside Iran, while authorities have disrupted the internet and social media tools, making it difficult to know outside what is happening.

Iranians, however, are still managing to post video of protests and incidents which have been verified by the BBC.

Source » bbc