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Iranian woman held in Venezuela starts hunger strike

CARACAS, Oct 7 (Reuters) - An Iranian protester detained in Venezuela said Saturday she had began a hunger strike to call for her immediate release 10 days after pelting a senior Iranian official with eggs during the Caracas OPEC summit.

Laila Jazayeri, 39-year-old British citizen, said she began her fast at midnight Saturday after being held by Venezuelan authorities since Sept. 27 without charge.

A second Iranian-born woman, with Dutch nationality, also started a hunger strike to protest her detention even though she played no part in the attack, Jazayeri said.

Under Venezuelan law, foreigners who disturb the peace or breach public security can be held for up to 30 days without legal charges before being deported.

``We will continue our hunger strike until our immediate freedom,'' Jazayeri said in a joint statement read to Reuters.

Jazayeri, the head of British-based civil rights group, said the victim of her attack was Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Venezuelan authorities have said it was an Iranian official.

The two women are being held in the headquarters of the secret police after Jazayeri requested on Friday they be moved from their hotel rooms for their own safety.

Venezuelan authorities, who were forced to apologise to the Iranian OPEC delegation over the incident, were not immediately available for comment on why the women were being held.

A secret police official said it was an immigration issue.

Jazayeri, who said her husband was killed by a previous Iranian government, posed as a press photographer to elude security at the OPEC heads of state summit. She claims to have hit Khatami with three eggs filled with red paint as he arrived for a diner hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez had said the following day ``in the midst of how beautiful everything has gone, the huge success of the summit, this was a very minor event.''


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