Officials May Start Force-Feeding Fasting Inmate Soon

The lawyer for a former university professor on a hunger strike for the past 44 days says his client may soon be force fed.

Sami al-Arian is a Palestinian who taught computer science at the University of South Florida. He stopped eating on January 22nd to protest a judge's decision to hold him indefinitely after he refused to testify before a Virginia grand jury investigating a cluster of Islamic charities in northern Virginia.

His wife says he's lost more than 40 pounds on the water-only diet and is so weak that he needs a wheelchair.

Attorney Peter Erlinder says officials at the Federal Medical Facility in Butner have told al-Arian that they will begin force feeding if his condition worsens. Erlinder says he hopes a resolution can be reached before that.

In a plea bargain last May, al-Arian admitted to conspiring to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, although he received credit for time already served.