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Al-Arian ends 140-day hunger strike

After fasting for more than three months, Sami Al-Arian ended his hunger strike last week. When federal officials arrested the former USF professor on Feb. 20, he used the hunger strike to protest the terrorism- related charges.

Wednesday afternoon, Al-Arian ended a liquid-only hunger strike during which he lost 45 pounds, according to an e-mail from the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace.

The hunger strike lasted 140 days to protest what Al-Arian has described as “unjust conditions” during his confinement.

Three weeks after the arrest, Al-Arian was hospitalized for a lack of nutrition. After his release from Tampa General Hospital, Al-Arian began a liquid-only hunger strike, drinking a Carnation Instant Breakfast once a day.

According to the e-mail, Al-Arian’s family says he understands self representation would require “his full physical and mental capacity.”

Al-Arian’s wife Nahla could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday evening, his court-appointed lawyers filed a motion with Judge James Moody to be dismissed from the case.

Attorney Frank Louderback said the motion was hand-written by Al-Arian and was filed at his client’s request.

“This is the same thing he’s been saying since we got on the case,” Louderback said. “That until he can hire the lawyers he wants, (he will) represent himself.”

Moody has yet to approve the motion, but a status hearing will be held Aug. 6.

Louderback and attorney Jeffrey Brown appeared on The O’Reilly Factor last month to discuss the status of Al-Arian’s case and his prison conditions. According to The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, the event “undermined (Al-Arian’s) defense and sent the wrong message to the community.”

Louderback said their appearance had absolutely nothing to do with their dismissal from the case.

“Although The O’Reilly Factor seems pleased that you published that,” Louderback said.

Louderback added that he would go back on the show depending on what host Bill O’Reilly has planned to discuss.

Al-Arian is in pursuit of Washington D.C. attorney William B. Moffitt’s assistance for the trial that is scheduled for 2005. Al-Arian supporters are raising money to pay for Moffitt’s hiring. If Moffitt is not hired in the case, the judge may have to assign stand-by counsel to assist Al-Arian’s self representation during the trial.