US army shooting suspect ordered to shave

Army Major Nidal Hasan claims he grew the beard because of his Muslim faith and not as a show of disrespect.

    US army shooting suspect ordered to shave
    Hasan is accused of opening fire on November 5, 2009, at a deployment centre at Fort Hood, killing 13 [Reuters]

    A US military judge has ordered the 2009 Fort Hood shooting suspect, Army Major Nidal Hasan, to shave off his beard or be "forcibly shaved."

    Col Gregory Gross issued the official order on Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Hasan's case.

    "Bottom line is, the judge ordered him to be forcibly shaved," Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said.

    The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled last month that if Gross ordered Hasan to shave, the ruling could be appealed, which means another delay in all proceedings related to Hasan's trial.

    "It won't happen until the Army Criminal Court of Appeals or the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces makes a decision," Broadway said of the shaving.

    Army correctional facilities have forcibly shaved a prisoner six times since 2005, Broadway said.

    Hasan is accused of opening fire on November 5, 2009, at a deployment centre at Fort Hood, one of the largest US Army bases, killing 13 people.

    Beards are a violation of army regulations, and soldiers who disobey orders to get rid of facial hair can be shaved against their will.

    Religious reasons

    Gross repeatedly has said Hasan's beard, which he started growing in jail this summer, is a disruption to the court proceedings.

    Hasan told the judge last week that he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, not as a show of disrespect. Gross ruled Thursday that the defence did not prove Hasan is growing a beard for sincere religious reasons.

    The Judge had found Hasan in contempt of court at six previous pretrial hearings because he was not clean-shaven, then sent him to a nearby trailer to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit television.

    But he was allowed to remain in the courtroom for Thursday's hearing.

    Just before the ruling, lead defence attorney said Hasan twice offered to plead guilty and “accept full responsibility'' for the crime last month.

    After the government turned him down in January, Major Nidal Hasan offered to plead guilty again last month without a deal - and also tried to challenge army rules that prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to murder in a death penalty case, said Lt Col Kris Poppe.

    Hasan, an army psychiatrist, faces a death sentence if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder, even if he decides to plead guilty to 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 shootings at the sprawling Army base in central Texas.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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