Iran admits leaked videos of prison beatings are real in rare admission of human rights abuses

Footage taken from jail surveillance cameras show guards hitting prisoners and dragging detainee along floor

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 24 August 2021 20:23
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<p>Guards drag an emaciated prisoner at Evin prison in Tehran</p>

Guards drag an emaciated prisoner at Evin prison in Tehran

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An Iranian official has made a rare admission that claims of abuse at a notorious prison in Tehran were genuine, after a hacker group obtained videos showing beatings and inmates enduring grim conditions.

Mohammad Mehdi Hajmohammadi, head of Iran's prison system, said he took responsibility for the “unacceptable behaviours” and described the contents of the videos as “bitter incidents”.

The Islamic Republic's Evin prison is known to hold political prisoners and those with ties to the west who Iran uses as bargaining chips in international negotiations. The jail was blacklisted by the US in 2018 for “serious human rights abuses”.

Human Rights Watch said in a recent report: “The [Evin] authorities use threats of torture, threats of indefinite imprisonment and torture of family members, deception and humiliation, multiple daily interrogations lasting up to five or six hours, denial of medical care, and denial of family visits.”

The videos, apparently taken from prison surveillance cameras, show guards beating prisoners and dragging a detainee on the floor.

In one part of the footage, a man smashes a bathroom mirror to try to cut open his arm.

Prisoners and guards beat each other in scenes and inmates are shown sleeping in single rooms with bunk beds stacked three high against the walls, wrapping themselves in blankets to stay warm.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Hajmohammadi vowed to ”avoid the repeat of such bitter incidents as well as confront the perpetrators“, but stopped short of addressing how they would be resolved.

”My apologies to the Almighty God, the dear Supreme Leader, our great nation and the noble prison officers whose efforts will not be ignored because of the wrongdoings of others,” he wrote.

The alleged hackers said the release of the footage was an effort to show the grim conditions at the prison

State television in Iran also reported Mr Hajmohammadi's remarks, which were hailed as a rare admission of human rights abuses in Iran, which often has dismissed such criticism as baseless.

An online account that shared the videos calls itself The Justice Of Ali, a reference to the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law who is revered by Shiites. It also mocks Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

However, the account did not respond to questions about its membership or how it conducted the hack when approached by the Associated Press.

Additional reporting by agencies

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