Iran’s prison chief has apologised after hackers exposed CCTV footage of abuse by guards in the country’s notorious Evin jail, where British nationals are being held on disputed espionage charges.
Earlier this week, hackers released a video showing employees in the prison control room jump to attention as surveillance cameras switch off and are replaced with messages reading “cyber attack” and “general protest until the freedom of political prisoners”.
A series of CCTV videos were then released showing guards on Monday beating prisoners, an emaciated prisoner being dragged across a car park, solitary confinement cells, overcrowding in single-person cells and one man breaking a mirror to try and cut his arm open.
Prison chief, Mohammad Mehdi Hajmohammadi, took responsibility for the “unacceptable behaviours” in the prison on Twitter on Tuesday and vowed to “avoid the repeat of such bitter incidents as well as confront the perpetrators.”
The footage is not believed to show the wards of Evin controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards where political prisoners and those with western ties, who are often used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West, are held.
Among the dual nationals currently detained in the IRGC ward of Evin are British citizens Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is currently under house arrest in Tehran, was also housed there for four years.
But Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic and former Evin inmate, said that the solitary confinement cell shown in the videos was similar to the one that she was held in.
The hack was by a self-described group called “the justice of Ali” - a reference to both the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and a jab at Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They said the videos were among “hundreds” of gigabytes of data they claim to have stolen several months ago.
The cyberattack was a “very serious intervention in the regime’s security and intelligence apparatus,” said London-based cyber security expert Amin Sabet.
Iran has faced several embarrassing hacks in recent years, including an attack on the railroad system last month which manipulated station announcement boards to post messages such as “long delayed because of cyberattack”.
The attack on Evin, according to Mr Sabet, was “far more complicated” than previous cyber attacks and would have taken “months to organise and execute” by a group of “highly professional” hackers.
“The hackers have said that more exposures dealing with the security systems of the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence will follow,” he said.
“We should expect to see more videos in the coming days from this long-planned operation”.