Iranian authorities have transferred a large number of inmates out of Evin Prison in Tehran—notorious for holding political prisoners—to other prisons and implemented further security measures in Evin in preparation for more sudden influxes of detainees like those seen following recent crackdowns on street protests, sources informed the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Evidence points to preparations being made in Evin in the face of possible protests,” one of the sources with detailed knowledge of the transfers told CHRI on February 12, 2020.

“They started transferring the prisoners 10 days ago and at the moment very few are left in wards 2, 8 and 7—mostly political and ‘security’ prisoners, as well as prisoners of conscience,” added the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons. “Other wards have been shut down and locked.”

“When the November 2019 protests happened, many detainees had to be released because there was not enough space to keep them,” added the source. “That was a lesson for officials to prepare for the possibility of more and wider protests.”

Some 7,000 people were arrested in November 2019 according to Hossein Naqavi Hossein, the spokesman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Committee, when protests exploded in dozens of cities throughout the country following the Rouhani government’s announcement of a nationwide gasoline price hike.

To date, Iranian authorities have not informed the public of how many remain detained as of February. Nor have they commented on the transfers. However, in June 2017, former Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said there should be “a large detention center inside the city of Tehran” for temporary detainees because it was impractical to transport them 20 miles away to the GTCP, also known as Fashafouyeh Prison, and bring them back to the capital to be tried.

“Evin Prison is Becoming a High-Security Detention Center”

On February 11, former Evin Prison inmate Saeed Malekpour posted a note on his Facebook page stating that the prison is “becoming a high-security detention center modeled on wards 2-A and 209,” the severely restrictive, high-security wards respectively controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Intelligence Ministry.

He added that ongoing construction in the emptied wards was resulting in more security cameras as well as extended walls and barbed and electric wire fence installations.

Malekpour, who served 11 years in Evin for allegedly creating a computer program that was used by operators of Persian pornographic sites, fled Iran for his resident country of Canada in August 2019 while he was out of prison on furlough (temporary release).

“They have cut all the trees in the open common areas of wards 7 and 8,” wrote Malekpour, who is now based in British Columbia. “There were lots of large thick trees there. They were the only things that cheered up the prisoners. The club… where prisoners could exercise has been shut down.”

Since the Iranian government’s large-scale crackdown on mass street protests in 2009 that came to be known as the “Green Movement,” the IRGC-controlled Ward 2-A has been the primary holding area for detained protesters, dissidents and other individuals held on political charges.

“But since last year, another detention center has been built by the IRGC outside Evin Prison,” a source with knowledge of the construction told CHRI. “The exact location isn’t clear. It has remained secret.”

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