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Jailed protesters on hunger strike

More than 100 jailed Bahraini activists - including doctors who treated injured protesters during months of anti-government protests and crackdowns in the Gulf kingdom - are on hunger strike, an international panel said.

The Bahrain Commission of Inquiry said in a statement that 84 opposition supporters are on hunger strike in prison. In addition, 17 detained activists have been taken to hospital by the Interior Ministry over their refusal to eat.

Hundreds of activists have been imprisoned since February when Shiite-led demonstrations for greater rights began in the Sunni-ruled Bahrain. More than 30 people have been killed since protests inspired by Arab uprisings began in February.

Large clashes broke out between riot police and youth protesters after a celebration over the release of one of the doctors from prison in northern city of Dih. An unknown number of protesters were wounded when security forces fired shotguns, according to witnesses.

Clashes between young people and police are a near nightly occurrence in Bahrain, but Wednesday evening's clashes in Dih were the largest in weeks, witnesses said.

The five-member panel has been set up in June to investigate the unrest. The statement said an international expert on hunger strikes will join the panel to visit the striking detainees and evaluate their condition.

"Medical advice will be provided and the expert will discuss the challenges of hunger strike," the statement said, adding that the hunger strike started nine days ago.

Among the jailed activists on hunger strike are doctors who are on trial in a special security court on charges of participating in efforts to overthrow Bahrain's 200-year-old monarchy.

The case against 11 health professionals was back in the special tribunal on Wednesday. After the hearing, the 11 defendants were released from custody, although they remain charged with anti-state crimes, a lawyer for one of the doctors said.

Other jailed opposition supporters have joined the strike, including two prominent Shiite activists, Abdul Jalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. They were sentenced to life in prison in June for their role in protests.

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