A convicted killer and former counterculture guru extradited from France after a lengthy court battle says he is fasting to protest his diet at the state prison where he is being held.

In a handwritten note to the Associated Press, Ira Einhorn claimed he was diabetic and hypoglycemic and could not maintain his health on what he said was a sugar-rich prison diet.

"My response is to fast for as long as it takes to get me back on the diet I need to maintain my health," Einhorn wrote in the letter dated Wednesday. "I will not eat food that I know makes me sick. I would rather die."

He said he started fasting Wednesday after authorities at Graterford state prison outside Philadelphia suspended an arrangement he had worked out with the kitchen staff to control his sugar level.

Leslie Hatcher, a prison spokeswoman, said Einhorn has been eating but would not give specifics.

"We have a policy that if an inmate misses nine meals he is seen by our medical and our psychological department," Hatcher said.

She would not discuss his health or say if he had seen a doctor since an initial examination when he entered the prison last month, citing confidentiality rules.

A lawyer who has represented Einhorn, Norris Gelman, did not respond to messages left at his home and office Saturday.

Einhorn, 61, an influential Philadelphia counterculture leader in the 1960s and '70s, was convicted in absentia in 1993 for the 1977 bludgeoning death of girlfriend Holly Maddux. She was missing for 18 months before her body was found stuffed in a trunk in the apartment they shared.

Einhorn disappeared in 1981 and was discovered living in the French countryside in 1997. After battling extradition for years, he was returned to Philadelphia on July 20.

Einhorn will be able to request a new trial, as state officials promised in persuading France to extradite him. If he does not, he will be required to serve the life sentence imposed in 1993.