Al-Arian Gets Visitors During Hunger Strike (3/31)
March 31, 2008
By Keith Morelli
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TAMPA - Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida
professor who remained in a Virginia prison on contempt of court
charges despite his acquittal on serious terrorist charges, has lost
32 pounds in a month-long hunger strike, according to an Islamic
group's executive director who visited Al-Arian on Monday.
Al-Arian is on his second hunger strike to protest his detention.
His family last year moved to Egypt and he is expected to be
deported as soon as he is released from prison. But his refusal to
testify before a federal grand jury is delaying his release.
"I was really shocked to see how skinny he is and how much weight he
lost," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "His hunger strike began on March
3, and now he looks like a totally different person from the person
I knew five years ago."
Still, Awad said, Al-Arian's spirits are high. "Amazingly, he is
composed and he made sense. He was very sharp, very alert.
"He believes in his just cause and we were there to support him,"
Al-Arian is on his second hunger strike. On March 3, he first
refused food and water. He had been taken to a medical facility in
North Carolina for treatment but was returned to the Northern Neck
Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va. He is now taking only liquids and has
lost 32 pounds.
"This defies logic," Awad said Monday night. "It violates the spirit
of justice that this country is so proud of. We just hope that
people of conscience and responsible people in the government will
look at this case because it is publicized worldwide."
Visiting Al-Arian were representatives of the American Muslim
Alliance (AMA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), CAIR, and
American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT).
After the visit, the contingent called on the House Judiciary
Committee to intervene in the case.
The former professor was tried in federal court two years ago, and
acquitted of many of the more serious charges. The jury deadlocked
on nine charges and Al-Arian ended up pleading guilty to lesser
"The last thing you want to see," Awad said, "is a political
prisoner dying on hunger strike."
Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760 or