The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage must be clean-shaven or will be forcibly shaved before his murder trial, a military judge has ordered.
Col. Gregory Gross issued the official order on Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Nidal Hasan’s case.
The move triggered yet another delay in all proceedings related to Hasan’s trial as his attorneys plan to appeal the decision.
It also comes as Hasan’s attorneys revealed he offered twice to plead guilty and ‘accept responsibility’ for the grisly murders earlier this year.
His attorneys said he even tried to challenge Army rules preventing him from pleading guilty to murder in a death penalty case.
Before he appeared in court this summer, Hasan, who stands accused of killing 13 people in the rampage, was clean-shaven in all other hearings.
But Hasan, an American-born Muslim, began growing the beard this summer in a violation of Army regulations. Soldiers who disobey orders to get rid of facial hair can be shaved against their will.
Gross repeatedly has said Hasan’s beard is a disruption to the military court proceedings. As a result, he has found Hasan in contempt of court at the past six pretrial hearings.
Instead, Hasan was ordered to watch the proceedings outside the courtroom on a closed-circuit television. But the judge allowed Hasan to remain in the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing.
Last week he told the judge last week that he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, not as a show of disrespect.
‘In the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim,’ Hasan told Gross in his response to the judge. ‘I believe my religion requires me to wear a beard.’
But on Thursday, Gross ruled the defense didn’t prove Hasan is growing a beard for sincere religious reasons.
Hasan, 41, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack on the Texas Army post – the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military base.
Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police on the day of the rampage, but appears to have full use of his arms.
If convicted, he faces the death penalty; Hasan said he is keeping the beard as he believes he will die soon.
Source: The Daily Mail