BUTNER – About 60 people held a two-hour vigil beside Interstate 85 on Saturday for an imprisoned former college professor accused of conspiring with Palestinian terrorists.

Sami al-Arian is being held at the Federal Medical Facility near Butner for refusing to testify in a terrorism-related case before a Virginia grand jury. On Jan. 22, he began a hunger strike to protest his incarceration beyond the duration of his sentence.

After he collapsed Feb. 13, the Federal Bureau of Prisons transferred al-Arian to Butner from a prison in Virginia.

Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla al-Arian, said her diabetic husband ended the hunger strike Friday, at his family’s urging, and tried taking liquid nutrients. In his weakened condition, he was having difficulty digesting them, she said.

“The most important thing is [that] his psychological state is healthy and fine,” she said.

Khalila Sabra, director of the N.C. Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said, “He’s experiencing a living death. … Until he’s free, none of us are really free.”


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