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Al-Arian Gets Visitors During Hunger Strike

by Kei­th Morel­li


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.”