Middle East

Tehran's notorious Evin prison may become park

An inmate looks out the door of a cell at Tehran's Evin prison (13 June 2006) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Judiciary officials have said they plan to move prisons and military bases outside Tehran

The mayor of Tehran hopes to transform the notorious Evin prison in Iran's capital into a public park, after receiving the judiciary's approval.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani had agreed to contribute towards the cost.

The prison, covering 43 hectares (106 acres) in the north of city, has thousands of inmates, including many of Iran's political prisoners.

Human rights activists say they have documented systematic abuses there.

Last year, the head of Iran's prison service was replaced amid allegations that inmates at a special wing at Evin used to hold political prisoners, academics, intellectuals and journalists were badly beaten by guards.

Media reaction - BBC Monitoring

Iranian dailies welcomed the Tehran municipality's plans to turn Evin prison into a park.

"Converting the prison into a museum or park has been a long-time wish of many citizens," said the centrist Ebtekar daily. "It is good news as Evin is among the few regions in Tehran that has good weather and the city's residents could make good use of the park."

But many commentators on news websites and social media were critical.

One Facebook user said that the planned park "would reek of blood". "How can I walk in a park which is tied to the bitterest moments of my life," tweeted another.

Others wondered about the logistics of the move.

"There is concern that moving the prison out of Tehran will inflict more problems on the prisoners and their families," suggested an opinion piece on the moderate Asr-e Iran website.

Evin was also used to detain many activists arrested when millions participated in protests after the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Several are believed to have died as a result of torture, ill treatment, or medical neglect.

Judiciary officials have said they plan to move prisons and military bases outside the capital, and two months ago plans were presented to change Evin's purpose, according to the AFP news agency.

On Monday, Mr Qalibaf told reporters that he had discussed the future of Evin at a meeting with Ayatollah Larijani.

"He told me that [the judiciary] had reviewed the [Tehran] municipality's proposal and that they were ready for the municipality to start talks to turn the Evin prison complex into a green space," he was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

The mayor cited the example of Qasr prison, which was closed in 2008 and turned into a museum.

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