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Jailed Iranian students start hunger strike

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gestures during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva December 9, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Two jailed Iranian students have gone on hunger strike, a reformist website said on Tuesday, the latest in a string of such protests which have drawn expressions of concern from the United Nations and even some of the Islamic Republic’s conservative clerics.

Bahareh Hedayat, who was nominated for the 2010 Student Peace Prize by the European Students’ Union, is serving nine and a half years for anti-state propaganda. Her fellow hunger striker, Mahdieh Golroo, is serving one year.

The reformist Kalame website said both had started refusing food. It gave no further details about their condition as they have been denied visits.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern in November about detained human rights activists in Iran staging hunger strikes and a group of conservative clerics has also spoken out.

The Association of Qom Seminary Teachers and Researchers urged parliament to investigate the situation, expressing particular concern for filmmaker and journalist Mohammad Nourizad.

Nourizad, arrested for writing critical letters addressed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, went on hunger strike on December 11. He was transferred to hospital last week as his condition had deteriorated, reformist websites said.

Thousands of opposition supporters were detained in unrest after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. Most of them have since been freed but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years. At least two people put on trial after the election have been executed.

Editing by Philippa Fletcher