40 Iranian prisoners in Iraq launch hunger strike

AP News
Posted: Dec 28, 2009 7:25 AM

Around 40 Iranians held in an Iraqi prison are on a hunger strike to demand meetings with Iranian officials about their cases, an Iraqi government official said Monday.

Lawyer Mohammed Radhi said the strike has been peaceful since its start on Sunday. Radhi works for the state-run Human Rights Commission.

The prisoners are being held in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad. A police official said the prisoners have not been allowed to talk to the Iranian Embassy.

The prisoners were convicted of illegally crossing the border to commit terrorist acts and were sentenced to between five and seven years behind bars, the police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

No further information was available about individual prisoners or their criminal cases. Iraqi and American officials have long accused Iran of supporting insurgents in Iraq.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad was not available Monday.

The prisoners' pleas come as Tehran struggles to contain civil unrest that saw at least eight people killed in street demonstrations on Sunday.

In June, Iraqi Shiite prisoners went on hunger strike to protest prison conditions. Some of them said they had been held for over a year without charge. It's unclear whether the short-lived strike resulted in any changes.