Second detained Iranian director on hunger strike

TEHRAN Thu May 20, 2010 11:16am EDT

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - A detained Iranian writer and film director has started a hunger strike after he was "severely beaten" by security personnel in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, an opposition website reported on Thursday.

Mohammad Nourizad was arrested late last year after he published on his blog three letters deemed disrespectful to Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other senior officials.

"Nourizad was taken to the prison yard on Tuesday ... and was severely beaten by five security forces," Kaleme said, adding as a result of the beating, Nourizad was suffering from impaired vision.

"He has now started a hunger strike and has informed his family that he will not survive if this situation continues," the website reported.

Nourizad is the second detained Iranian film maker to start a hunger strike in recent days.

Prominent director Jafar Panahi, winner of many international awards and a supporter of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year's election, was arrested in March and began a hunger strike on Sunday.

French government ministers had called for Panahi to be allowed to attend the Cannes festival under way this week.

Nourizad, sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and 50 lashes, was arrested after he urged Khamenei in his letters to apologize to the Iranian nation for the crackdown on the opposition movement after last June's election, Kaleme said.

The election, which the opposition says was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, plunged the Islamic Republic into months of political turmoil.

The authorities have portrayed the huge opposition protests that erupted after the vote as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the clerical establishment.

Thousands of opposition supporters were detained after the election. Most of them have since been freed but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years. Two people put on trial after the election have been executed.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

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