NICOSIA (AFP) -- Several Iranian political prisoners have gone on hunger strike in protest at being denied proper medical care in jail, international rights groups said in a statement Monday.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Defenders of Human Rights Center (DRRC) and League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) issued a joint statement expressing alarm at the action by more than 80 inmates.
Among them are human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, who began a hunger strike in Tehran's Evin prison on November 1 in protest at the authorities denying adequate medical care to dozens of sick prisoners there, it said.
"Two days later, about 80 prisoners also started a three-day strike in Rajaishahr prison, near the city of Karaj, west of Tehran," the statement said.
The hunger-strikers are denouncing security service "interference" during prisoner transfers to hospitals and the refusal of the authorities to meet costly medical bills.
"Authorities seem to be seeking revenge against prisoners of conscience for exercising their rights," said FIDH president Karim Lahidji.
"In addition to suffering torture during pre-trial detention and harsh sentences after extremely unfair trials, they are denied access to adequate medical treatment."
"More than two dozen prisoners of conscience have died as a result of extensive neglect under highly dubious conditions in Iranian prisons in the past few years," said Shirin Ebadi, DHRC President and 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate.
"The Iranian authorities are silently preparing the death of prisoners of conscience," the statement quoted the rights lawyer, who lives in exile, as saying.
In the statement, the groups called on the international community to express their concern at the plight of political prisoners by voting for a UN resolution "bound to reflect the gross violations of human rights" in Iran.
On October 24, Iran angrily rejected a UN report which said the Islamic republic's human rights record showed no sign of improvement.
In the report, special human rights monitor for Iran Ahmed Shaheed condemned the high number of executions in the country this year as well as tough restrictions on freedom of speech, especially online.