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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Fears for Iran's political prisoners

By Jim Muir
BBC correspondent in Tehran

Reformist leaders in Iran have been expressing renewed concern for the conditions of political prisoners in the country and especially for Abbas Abdi.

Mr Abdi was given a four-and-a-half year jail sentence last year after being charged with selling information to Iran's enemies.

Abbas Abdi (left) and Behrouz Geranpayeh
Abbas Abdi (left) is currently on hunger strike, his family say
His family say they have been allowed no contact with him recently and that he is currently going on hunger strike to protest against his conditions and those of other political prisoners.

Mr Abdi had conducted opinion polls which indicated that a large majority of Iranians would like to see talks with the United States on restoring relations.

The leader of the biggest reformist party, Mohammad Reza Khatami - who is the president's brother - said they were deeply concerned about what he called a disaster in the country's prisons which could dwarf the recent case of Zahra Kazemi.

Warning

She was a Canadian-Iranian photo journalist who was arrested in June and died in custody as the result of a blow to the head.

Reformists say there are about 40 prominent political prisoners in the capital alone, including journalists, liberal political figures and student leaders.

Another six members of the loose opposition grouping known as the National Religious Movement are also currently going on trial, charged with inciting the street disturbances which broke out in June.

The reformists have warned that if their concerns about the conditions of political prisoners are not met they will do more to dramatise their plight.




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