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Al-Arian’s hunger strike will continue despite fainting spell, family says

Days after Sami Al-Arian fainted and was found lying unconscious on a shower room floor in a Virginia jail, his family, according to numerous media outlets, has said that the former USF professor is fine and that he doesn’t plan on ending his nearly month-long hunger strike.

Today marks the 28th day of his hunger strike – and it’s starting to show.

Aside from fainting, Al-Arian, who is only consuming four glasses of water a day, has lost about 30 pounds, according to his family. Doctors say if he keeps going, only trouble lies ahead.

“He may go into shock or even into a coma soon,” said Tampa physician Steve Arkin. “If he keeps going without any food, I’d give him about another month or so. Eventually, he will die.”

Al-Arian, 49, is fasting in protest of being held to testify in a case against Muslim charities accused of aiding terrorist organizations. As part of a plea agreement, he was convicted last year of aiding associates of a terrorist group in nonviolent ways.

Al-Arian has claimed the U.S. government told him if he pleaded guilty, he wouldn’t have to testify in future cases.

Arkin said he hasn’t heard of anybody living longer than about 90 days without food. It depends on the person’s body weight and how much of that is made up of fat, he said.

But anyone who goes nearly a month without food is putting his or her life in danger.

“A number of things could happen: liver failure, (he could become) comatose, mental confusion, shock,” Arkin said. “Eventually, things start to fail.”

By this point, Arkin said, Al-Arian probably isn’t even hungry.

“Once they hit a certain point, it’s hard to eat again for some people. Right now, it’s probably a matter of will because the drive to eat is gone.”

Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, was unavailable for comment Sunday night, but told the Associated Press over the weekend that the family is concerned.

“We worry about Sami, but at the same time we try to do our best to get him out of this whole situation,” she said.