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Fire at Iran's notorious Evin prison leaves several dead

A fire Saturday at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran has killed four prisoners and injured at least 61, Iranian state television says. People inside the prison told BBC Persian the death toll is actually higher.

In videos shared online, smoke and flames can be seen coming out of the prison and gunshots and explosions are heard. Many of the people at Evin are political prisoners and dual nationals. The prison is holding hundreds of Iranians arrested for participating in anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

Iranian state news said the fire broke out in the prison's sewing workshop. A high-profile political prisoner, Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, was given an "early temporary release," his brother said, and some journalists on social media said they believe this is evidence authorities set the fire intentionally, BBC News reports. Rafsanjani is the son of Iran's late former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iranian state television is pinning the fire on "criminal elements."

"It is absolutely terrifying as it is to be in that concrete cell, let alone to have fire raging outside your cell, explosions happening, sound of gunshots," a former prisoner told BBC News. Last year, hackers released film captured inside of the prison showing guards beating inmates.