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Former terror suspect on hunger strike

April 23, 2008 at 9:09 PM

PORTSMOUTH, Va., April 23 (UPI) -- An ex-University of South Florida professor once suspected of financing terrorism is on a hunger strike and suicide watch in a Virginia jail, officials say.

Sami Al-Arian had hoped to be deported after serving a federal prison term for a terrorism-related conviction but the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., wants him to testify before a grand jury, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday.

Al-Arian, 50, has refused to do so, and has been on a hunger strike at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail since March 3, protesting his continued detention, the newspaper reported.

He was charged in a 53-count indictment with being the chief North American financial supporter of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is accused by the U.S. government of being a terrorist group responsible for more than 100 deaths in Israel.

The jury in December 2005 found him not guilty of conspiring to commit murder abroad, providing support for terrorists, money-laundering and related charges. It deadlocked on nine other charges.

Al-Arian then agreed to a plea deal, with the condition that he not have to cooperate with the government in any investigation and that he be deported immediately.

He served 57 months in prison, the newspaper said.

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