by Keith Morelli
TAMPA TRIBUNE 
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.
Sami Al-Arian (2002)
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,” Awad said.
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 counts.
“The last thing you want to see,” Awad said, “is a political prisoner dying on hunger strike.”