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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 13:05 GMT
Iran women in jail hunger strike
Iranian women hold banners calling for equal rights - June 2006 photo
Seventy people were arrested at a demonstration last June
A group of Iranian women activists are continuing a hunger strike in prison, after eight of their number were freed.

Thirty-three women were arrested on Sunday after staging a demonstration outside a courthouse in Tehran.

They were showing solidarity with five women on trial for organising an anti-discrimination protest in 2006.

Women activists say the crackdown is intended to prevent any kind of protests as Iran marks International Women's Day on 8 March.

The five arrested last June have been charged with endangering national security, propaganda against the state and taking part in an illegal gathering.

'$50,000 bail'

The women began the hunger strike in protest at the continued detention of at least seven of their younger colleagues, their families said.

Human-rights activists and family members confirmed up to eight women were subsequently released from jail.

But they also confirmed that those remaining in jail were continuing the hunger strike to press for their own release.

The eight were told they were being transferred to another cell and had no idea they were about to be freed, the activists said.

Some of the jailed women have been able to telephone their families.

The husband of one told the BBC his wife had been asked for more than $50,000 as bail, and when she said they could not afford it she was told her case would be sent to the judiciary.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says different women's groups have announced plans to protest outside parliament and Tehran University on 8 March.

One group even said it wanted to protest against the law that says Iranian women must wear Islamic dress.




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