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Al-Arian taking nutrition drink, but hunger strike continues

For most people on a hunger strike, life has very little flavor.

But, according to Orient Road Jail commander David Parrish, Sami Al-Arian is getting a daily taste of chocolate and a few extra calories.

Parrish said Al-Arian, who has been held at the jail since his Feb. 20 arrest for an indictment on terrorism-related charges, is still on his hunger strike. He said, however, Al-Arian is having a breakfast drink each day. Parrish said Al-Arian has the drink with the medication he takes for diabetes.

Parrish said the drink is similar to a Carnation Instant Breakfast drink. According to Carnation’s Web site, the drink contains 220 calories. That is only about 10 percent of what Al-Arian needs on daily basis to maintain normal health.

Al-Arian’s hunger strike is now more than three weeks old. During the first five days, Al-Arian lost 10 pounds. On Feb. 28, Al-Arian was taken to Tampa General Hospital and placed on 24-hour health surveillance.

Parrish said he has begun to make plans for an intervention should Al-Arian continue his hunger strike. He said if Al-Arian’s health problems become serious he will go before a judge and ask for a court order to begin force-feeding.

“We’ve never (had a situation) like this before,” Parrish said.

Al-Arian is scheduled to appear before a federal judge for his bail hearing March 20. The hearing was originally scheduled for March 24 but was changed due to a conflict. At that point, Al-Arian’s hunger strike will be 28 days old.

Al-Arian and fellow co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Hatim Fariz will be joined for the hearing by one of the other men arrested after the publication of the justice department’s 120-page indictment. Ghassan Zayed Ballut, who was arrested in Illinois, has arrived in Florida and is being held at Orient Road.

Contact Rob Brannonat