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Iranian activist continues hunger strike

A jailed Iranian blogger has entered the 60th day of a hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment for criticising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the government’s policies, his family and activists have said.

In the latest of several arrests in recent years, blogger and ophthalmologist Medhi Khazali, the son of a prominent cleric, was sentenced on January 9 to 14 years in prison, 10 years in exile, and 90 lashes by a court in Tehran.

His son Mohamed Saleh Khazali told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on February 29 that Khazali had suffered "stomach bleeding" and had been taken to the hospital.

"Last week, when my father’s condition deteriorated, they transferred him to the hospital. When we saw him in the hospital, we couldn’t believe it was him. His weight loss was unbelievable. He was so thin. We are afraid something bad might happen to my father," he said.

Opposition activists say Khazali, who is a veteran of Iran’s war with Iraq, sent a letter to his wife last month, describing the difficult conditions in the prison.

"Many are incarcerated here only as a payback for disagreements with some high-ranking officials. They are under terrible physical and mental torture to make forced confessions of having connection with foreign intelligence agencies and embezzled money from state bodies," the letter said.

In February, Amnesty International said Iran had "dramatically" escalated its crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of parliamentary polls on March 2.

In a report entitled "We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran", the rights group detailed repressive acts by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, including a recent wave of arrests.

The arrests, Amnesty said, have targeted lawyers, students, journalists, political activists and their relatives, as  well as religious and ethnic minorities, film-makers and people with international connections, particularly to the media.


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