A group of Iranian MPs have finally been allowed to visit Tehran’s Evin Prison, following recent nationwide protests, the detention of 4,534 people, and the deaths of several in custody.
The head of Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, Allahyar Malekshahi, said 11 MPs toured the prison on Tuesday.
Iran’s authorities initially blocked any visit. It was finally scheduled for last Sunday but then delayed because of heavy snowfall in Tehran.
Almost all of those detained during the protests have been released, but some activists are still being held.
Five detainees reportedly died in custody. Families and activists say there is evidence that they were beaten, but Iranian officials insist that any deaths were suicides.
Malekshahi said that, while at Evin Prison, the MPs viewed CCTV footage of the suicide of one detainee.
Officials have refused to provide the footage of the alleged suicide of Sina Ghanbari, 22, to independent human rights groups. Former prisoners say Evin’s restrooms are so crowded that it would be impossible for someone to attempt suicide without attracting attention.
Fellow prisoners said Ghanbari was interrogated two days before his death. A rights committee reports, “Ghanbari told other inmates that he had gone through ‘house cleaning’ [prison slang for being beaten up by guards]. Ghanbari was badly battered to the extent that parts of his body were deeply bruised.”
Malekshahi said, “Concerning the guy who was arrested during the riots and there was talk of his suicide, we visited the spot where he committed suicide.”
The other MPs offered no comment. One of them, Mohammad Ali Vakili, said they had unanimously decided to refrain from any remarks: “We are going to weigh the outcome of the visit in a session [on Thursday] and then decide on our next step.”
The MPs were only allowed to speak to four arrested protesters during their visit to Evin.