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Anaheim man accused of supporting ISIS will be force-fed in prison

A judge's gavel rests on top of a desk in a courtroom.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
In a rare move, a federal judge Monday ordered a prisoner awaiting trial to be force fed.

An Anaheim man facing federal charges of providing support to the terrorist group ISIS will be forced-fed in prison after losing a significant amount of weight over the last four weeks due to irregular fasting.

Muhanad Elfaith M. A. Badawi, 24, has refused in recent days to eat food and drink minimal amounts of water. He removed an IV in his arm on Sunday after agreeing to have fluids pumped into him at a Los Angeles hospital, according to federal prison staff who testified in court on Monday in Santa Ana.   

The tall man has lost more than 30 pounds since he was arrested in May, said prison officials. He was 140 pounds back then.

“I have to make certain that he is lucid,” said U.S. District Judge David Carter referring to Badawi’s ability to help his defense attorney, Kate Corrigan.

Corrigan said he used to be extremely involved in his defense--he used to discuss the case with her but now can barely communicate with her or focus.

Corrigan said she noticed changes in his mental state after the Paris attacks on November 13, and then again after Turkish air forces shot down a Russian war aircraft on November 24.

“My intuition tells me that the reason this is going on is because unfortunately with the events throughout the world … slowly but surely my client’s hope to have a fair trial are starting to be diminished,” she said.

Badawi was arrested on May 21 for allegedly buying a plane ticket to Tel Aviv, Israel for a friend, Nader Elhuzayel, 25, who planned on joining ISIS fighters, according to an FBI affidavit. Elhuzayel was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport before boarding the plane. The two men face charges of providing material support to ISIS; both have pleaded not guilty.

 In November, the federal judge hearing his case was notified that Badawi was refusing to eat or be seen by women psychiatric doctors.

On Monday, federal prison staff said Badawi has lost three to four additional pounds since his last court hearing four days ago. He now weighs 109.6 pounds with a body mass index of 14, said prison officials.

Medical staff at White Memorial Hospital, where he was taken over the weekend because of dehydration concerns, wouldn't force-feed him because he is awaiting trial, not a convicted prisoner.

Dressed in a blue hospital gown, Badawi hung his head low in court on Monday and didn’t speak. He pulled the gown up to cover his shoulders as it repeatedly slipped off his bony frame.

“I don’t think the record can capture the way you look,” said U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. He described Badawi as lethargic, emaciated and dissipating.

Badawi’s mother wept in silence at the back of the courtroom on Monday. His father and brother also attended.

Per Judge Carter's order, the medical staff at the Bureau of Prison will use an IV or gastro-tube to involuntarily feed Badawi after first giving him the opportunity to eat an adequate amount of food by mouth.

Badawi told the judge last Thursday he was not on a hunger strike but wanted to fast on Mondays and Thursdays because of religious reasons. Judge Carter replied that fasting for Muslims was traditionally observed on Fridays and during Ramadan.

Carter said he would be in touch with prison officials on a daily basis to see if Badawi’s condition improved. He said the force-feeding will stop when Badawi gains strength.

“I don’t want this to turn into a specter of punishment,” Carter said.

Also on Monday, Badawi was accused of spitting on prison transportation guards and was forced to wear a “spitting hood” on his way to court.

Badawi has also been indicted on financial fraud along with Elhuzayel who is accused of depositing stolen checks at banks and withdrawing the money from ATMs. Badawi faces one count of using federal financial aid to buy the plane ticket for Elhuzayel.

There have been 71 people charged with ISIS-related activity in the U.S. since March 2014, according to a study published this month by George Washington University. The study found that 56 individuals were arrested this year, making it the largest number of terrorism arrests in a single year since September 2001.

Badawi and Elhuzayel have been denied bail.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported which days Muhanad Badawi wanted to fast. That has since been corrected.