A Palestinian former university professor is "very, very weak" and cold after spending two months on a hunger strike in a federal prison that his family believes is threatening his life, his wife said Tuesday.
Sami al-Arian, 49, a Palestinian who formerly taught computer science at the University of South Florida, stopped eating Jan. 22 to protest a judge's decision to hold him indefinitely after he refused to testify before a Virginia grand jury.
Since then, al-Arian has lost 54 pounds (24.5 kilograms), said his wife Nahla al-Arian, who has visited her husband at the Federal Medical Facility in Butner, North Carolina, most recently on Monday.
"When I first saw him on Saturday, I cried so hard because I couldn't believe he could look like this, no muscles, nothing," she said. "He's very weak, very, very weak. He lost a lot of weight. He was cold all the time, shivering, because his body temperature is very low."
But in a plea bargain last April, al-Arian admitted he conspired to aid individuals associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, although he received credit for the time he had already served. Al-Arian and his lawyers contend the plea deal also exempts him from testifying before the Alexandria, Virginia, grand jury, which is investigating a cluster of Islamic charities in northern Virginia.