Monday, January 22, 2018

Fort Hood shooting suspect must shave or be shaved, judge rules

A military judge in Texas ruled Thursday that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, must be clean-shaven before his court martial, else he will be forcibly shaved.

Army regulations ban beards, but Hasan, 41, who is still receiving military pay and benefits, objected on religious grounds, arguing that as a Muslim it would be a sin for him to shave. He appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which last week ruled that Hasan's appeal was premature because the military judge handling his case had not issued a definitive order. The court sent the case back to that judge.

Col. Gregory Gross, the military judge at Fort Hood, issued his order Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Hasan's case. Soldiers may be granted permission to grow beards for religious reasons, and six soldiers have been allowed to do so: a rabbi, two Muslim doctors and three Sikhs, according to Army records.

But Gross ruled that the defense hadn't proved that Hasan grew a beard for sincere religious reasons, a Fort Hood spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at the base in Central Texas, among the largest in the country.

His court martial had been scheduled to start last month, but has been delayed as he fights to keep his beard.

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