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Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Jailed Iranian journalist starts hunger strike

TEHRAN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - An outspoken Iranian journalist held in prison on a "temporary" detention order for more than five months, has gone on hunger strike, newspapers said on Wednesday.

Hamshahri newspaper quoted the spouse of the reformist Ahmad Zeydabadi as saying he had gone on hunger strike to protest against prison conditions. Other newspapers carried similar reports.

Zeydabadi has been in prison for more than five months without trial. In a separate development, newspapers said the publisher of the banned reformist daily Payam-e Azadi (Message of Freedom) was summoned to the hardline press courts. Details of charges against the newspaper remained unclear.

Iran's judiciary has closed down more than 30 independent publications and jailed many reformist activists - some as yet without trial - since the crackdown on freedom of expression began last year.

Hardliners who control the judicial apparatus say they took their cue from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who accused the independent press of being "bases of the enemy", last April.

The speech signalled a crackdown on Iran's nascent press freedoms by hardliners opposed to social and political reforms and the concept of a modern civil society.

Khamenei later ordered parliament not to debate a motion to reform Iran's draconian press laws which would have eased the pressures on the once-flourishing pro-reform publications.


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